Ongoing Coverage:

Joyce Russell


Joyce Russell is a correspondent based at the Iowa Statehouse. Joyce has been covering the Iowa Statehouse since shortly after joining the news staff at WOI Radio in 1988. Her earlier broadcasting experience included news reporting at commercial stations in Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joyce’s reports can be heard on National Public Radio and American Public Media programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace.  She covered the last six Iowa caucus campaigns and interviewed numerous candidates for president, including some who went on to attain the highest office in the land.   

Joyce  has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and  a master’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma.   

Joyce’s favorite public radio program is Fresh Air.


Child Care Bill Debated
5:53 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Grieving Couple Advocates for Child Care Bill

A couple from Adel brought tearful testimony to the statehouse.    Their  infant daughter died as a result of her care at an in-home child care provider.   A Republican-sponsored bill would require more in-home day cares to register with the state.    

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Statehouse and Politics
7:26 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Branstad asks Supreme Court to Overturn Juvenile Home Order

Credit John Pemble / IPR

This legislative session has been dominated by controversy surrounding the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. Gov  Branstad ordered its closure after the group Disability Rights Iowa found girls were being held in isolation. Four lawmakers sued Branstad to keep the home open. Last week many were surprised when a polk county district court judge ordered the reopening of the home. Governor Branstad has asked the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn the order to reopen the home. He made the announcement Friday and he is being represented by the Iowa Attorney General.

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Smart Meter Privacy Concerns
5:00 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Rural Residents Question New Smart Meter Technology

Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives are aggressively pursuing a new technology for measuring  electricity consumption  at homes and farms.    With so-called  smart meters , the REC’s  can tell how much power you’ve used without going anywhere near your house.   Health and privacy concerns have led some rural residents to look to the legislature for help.  

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Statehouse and Politics
7:43 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Juvenile Home's Future Unsure, The Likelihood of a Gas Tax Hike

Photo by John Pemble

Governor Terry Branstad ordered the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last month. It was after an investigation uncovered some girls were held in isolation cells. Last week Senate Democrats unveiled a bill to reopen the home under a new program. IPR's Clay Masters talks with Statehouse Correspondent about the juvenile home as well as the likelihood of lawmakers raising the state's  gas tax.

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Juvenile Home Backlash
11:17 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Courts Oppose Closing Juvenile Home

State lawmakers looking into the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo got a fresh perspective from juvenile court officers who work with the  delinquent girls who used to be assigned to the home.     The officers argue that Iowa needs a facility specifically for  girls who’ve been in serious trouble with the law.  Governor Branstad is at odds with the judicial branch. 

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Statehouse and Politics
6:53 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Stricter Training of Stun Guns Considered in Iowa Prisons

Credit John Pemble / IPR

A committee in the Iowa Senate heard from experts on using stun guns, so-called tasers, to subdue difficult inmates. Two prisoners have died in Iowa jails after being tased by officers. A number of other law enforcement agencies have faced lawsuits for their use of stun guns. Iowa Public Radio's Joyce Russell reports

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Statehouse and Politics
6:01 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Lawmakers Differ on Education Funding

Iowa’s Capitol during the first month of the 2014 legislative session.
Credit John Pemble / IPR

Leaders in the Democratic Iowa Senate say they plan to set state aid funding for the 2016 school year and provide more money to expand access to preschool. But Republicans who control the Iowa House see things a bit differently. IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the week ahead in the state legislature.

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Slain Girl's Family Wants Law
2:34 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Shepard Family Lobbies for Kidnapping Bill

The Shepard family from Dayton Iowa and their friends and supporters came to the capitol  to lobby for tougher penalties for kidnappers.  15 year old  Kathlynn


   Shepard  died at the hands of a kidnapper last year, and lawmakers say a stronger law  might have prevented the tragedy. 

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Statehouse and Politics
5:53 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Lawmakers Hear from Former Juvenile Home Residents, Employees

Credit John Pemble / IPR

Democrats in the Iowa Senate plan to introduce a bill to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.   Governor Branstad ordered the home closed after an  investigation revealed that some girls were being held in long-term isolation.   On Wednesday, a Senate committee heard testimony from former residents and staff, as well as Toledo boosters.  Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell reports:  

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Statehouse and Politics
6:00 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Sorting Out the Governor's 2014 State Budget

The Iowa legislature remains adjourned during the federal holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Credit John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers kicked off the 2014 legislative session last week and Governor Terry Branstad laid out his priorities: create job opportunities to incentive military veterans to move and work in Iowa, bring high speed internet access to the entire state and introduce legislation that would prevent school bullying. These issues can likely get bipartisan support in an election year. Clay Masters talks to statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell about the one thing both parties agree has to get done this legislative session: the budget.

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Statehouse and Politics
5:52 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Will the 2014 Legislative Session Be as Productive as Last Year?

The Iowa State Capitol on the last day of the 2013 legislative session.
Credit John Pemble / IPR

Today is the first day of the 2014 Iowa legislative session. It’s an election year, which usually means the time lawmakers meet will be short so people can go run for re-election. IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell talks with Clay Masters about the 2014 legislative session. 

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Year in Review
2:24 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Top IPR Reporter Picks of 2013

2013 has been a busy year for Iowa Public Radio's news team. Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with reporters and correspondents about some of the most meaningful and challenging stories they covered. It's a "reporter's notebook" edition of the show.

Here is a list of the full features heard on today's show:

January 10 - Undocumented Immigrants at University

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Juvenile Home Video Challenged
7:32 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Information Board Passes on Controversial Video

Photo by photolibrarian

A new state board charged with enforcing Iowa’s open meetings and open records laws  is facing a tough case.   The Des Moines Register is seeking the release of a video it believes  will show the mistreatment of a young girl at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.     But the  new Iowa Public Information board declined to rule.   


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8:54 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Anti-abortion Group Challenges Iowa Campaign Finance Law

An Iowa anti-abortion group wants the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its case against a state campaign finance law.

An anti-abortion group is waiting to hear if the  U.S. Supreme Court  will  reconsider  a ruling on  an Iowa campaign finance law.   Iowa passed its statute in response to the landmark case known as Citizens United.  

Iowa Right to Life says the law prevents  them from supporting  candidates who oppose abortion.     

The Iowa Attorney General is also waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the case.  

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7:45 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Feds Approve Iowa's Medicaid Expansion Alternative - Mostly

Credit differentieel / Flickr

A months-long battle over health insurance for thousands of uninsured low-income Iowans has moved closer to resolution.  The federal government agreed to most of the plan Iowa adopted instead of  simply expanding Medicaid. But the feds say the poorest individuals should not have to pay premiums, as proposed under the Iowa plan.

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Student Debit Card Probe
8:47 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Feds Probe Student Banking Offers

Photo by Kelli Cree

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington  is looking into a  banking  service  that’s growing in popularity on college campuses.    Universities  team up with large banks to offer debit cards to students.     

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Rastetter on Tuition Freeze
2:23 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Regents President Insists on Funding Hike

The head of the Iowa Board of Regents says  he will insist on a 4% hike in state funding, if Iowans want the board to freeze tuition next year.      President Bruce Rastetter was the featured speaker at the Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club. 

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Bullying Prevention Summit
9:48 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Bullying Prevention Views Differ

Students, teachers, and other school personnel turned out in Des Moines Monday for Governor Branstad’s second Bullying Prevention Summit.    The  governor  vowed to strengthen state law to combat  bullying online.    But  not everyone  agrees.   



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ATV's On The Road
8:03 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Off-Road Vehicles May Join the Road

An interim committee at the statehouse today heard from safety experts and off-road vehicle manufacturers as they consider whether to allow all-terrain vehicles to operate on public roadways.   A bill passed the House to open up county roads and highways  to ATV's  travelling as fast as 45 miles an hour.  But  it died in the Senate, and promoters say they’ll try again next year.   

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Possible Primary for Steve King
2:02 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

King's Role in Shutdown Criticized

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Some Iowa Republicans in the business world  are criticizing their party’s 4th district Congressman Steve King for his role in the federal government shutdown.   But  even before the showdown  in Washington, there was talk of mounting a primary challenge against the six-term incumbent.    

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Mezvinsky Papers to ISU
6:09 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Mezvinsky Watergate Documents Donated to ISU

A former Democratic Iowa Congressman has donated his papers to Iowa State University.   Ed Mezvinsky  was  on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal.     

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Statehouse and Politics
7:46 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Shutdown Could Cloud Iowa's Otherwise Bright Revenue Forecast

Credit John Pemble / IPR

Statehouse analysts are giving a cautiously optimistic forecast for modest  growth in the Iowa economy.    But they say that could change if Congress doesn’t act soon to end the federal government shutdown.    

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Statehouse and Politics
10:45 am
Wed October 9, 2013

DCI Pursues New Leads in Lottery Probe

Photo credit: barbourians

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has granted immunity to a person of interest in Canada, as they continue to probe a questionable claim for a more than 14 million dollar Iowa Lottery jackpot from nearly three years ago.    

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Statehouse and Politics
7:15 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Sorenson Resigns After Ethics Report

Image by Gage Skidmore

An embattled state senator facing ethics complaints has resigned at the request of the minority leader in the Iowa Senate.   An independent counsel concluded Senator Kent Sorenson may have been guilty of criminal misconduct in office.   

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Crime, Justice and Public Safety
5:54 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Des Moines Groups Target Racial Profiling

Credit IPR's Joyce Russell

Activist groups launched  a project they hope will illustrate how common  racial profiling is in and around Des Moines.     The ACLU, the NAACP, and a coalition of churches known as AMOS are inviting people of color to come forward with their stories to document allegations that  law enforcement targets  individuals solely because of their race.   

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Statehouse and Politics
11:20 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Sweeping Changes Considered for Juvenile Home

Photo by "photolibrarian"

A task force appointed by the governor will soon be recommending major changes at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.   An inspection last year revealed that teen-aged girls were being held in isolation for months at a time.  An  interim administrator told the task force about improvements at the home.     But the  advocacy group which unveiled the abuse still has concerns about restraining young girls.  

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Statehouse and Politics
5:42 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Questions Remain at Juvenile Home

State lawmakers grilled administrators about illegal practices at the Iowa Juvenile  Home in Toledo.    Officials say they have turned things around  since investigators last year found girls confined to isolation cells for months at a time.  But the advocacy group which unveiled the abuse says there’s more work to be done.   



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Statehouse and Politics
9:25 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Biden Featured at Harkin Steak Fry

Vice-president Joe Biden and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro were the featured speakers in Indianola for Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry.    

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Section 8 Blamed in Dubuque
5:01 am
Mon August 12, 2013

HUD Claims Housing Discrimination in Dubuque

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has come down hard on the city of Dubuque.   HUD says the city discriminated against African-Americans in its Section 8 Voucher program for low-income families.     The report is forcing a re-examination of race relations.    

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Solar Power Court Fight
1:09 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Power Companies Spar Over Solar

Credit: City of Dubuque

Advocates  for solar power are watching an Iowa court case that pits a small Dubuque company  against the state’s giant electric utilities.    Both sides say the case could  eliminate  some of the barriers to solar power in the state.  

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