Joyce Russell

Correspondent

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.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she was not aware of instances of sexual harassment in the Iowa Senate during the years she served as a Republican state senator.       

A Polk County jury Tuesday awarded former Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson a more than $2 million judgment in her sexual harassment case describing vulgar, sexist language by male aides and lawmakers.

Anderson's testimony covered the years 2009 and 2010 when Reynolds represented Senate District 48.     

Huw Loaring/flickr

Officials in Cedar Rapids are evaluating Iowa’s new fireworks law that debuted in the just-completed 4th of July season, after many residents weighed in against it.  

“Out of Cedar Rapids we've had more complaints on fireworks than we had on potholes or even on the speed cameras combined,” said Mayor Ron Corbett.  “That's how many people complained about the fireworks.”

Russell/IPR

Governor Reynolds’s challenger for the Republican nomination for governor has harsh words for how statehouse Republicans are managing shortfalls in the state budget.  

After tax receipts fell short of projections, Republican lawmakers dipped into cash reserves to balance the budget this year.

Gov. Reynolds is expected to spend even more emergency funds to cover the shortfall, and may have to call lawmakers back into special session.

GOP gubernatorial candidate, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, says the shortfall was predictable and preventable.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Backers of three separate casino proposals made their pleas before the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday, which will decide later this year whether to approve a new casino for Cedar Rapids.   

The commission turned down a Cedar Rapids proposal in 2014, citing concerns about market saturation and cannibalizing other Iowa casinos.

Developers argued before the board on Thursday that, long-term, a casino for Cedar Rapids would not harm revenues for other gaming operations.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

Cedar Rapids Mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett reports a successful initial fundraising effort since announcing his candidacy three weeks ago.  

At a Des Moines news conference, Corbett said he has raised more than $1 million, including $800,000 in cash and additional thousands in commitments, without taking money from political action committees.

Governor Reynolds has reported having $1 million in her campaign war chest.  

Corbett said that was raised over the course of a year with Gov. Branstad’s help.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa motorists are being warned of possible penalties under a new state law designed to protect utility crews working along Iowa roadways.  

The electric utilities of Iowa have launched a Move Over Slow Down campaign to promote the law, which requires drivers to either change lanes or reduce their speed when passing utility vehicles.

The original law was enacted in 2002 covering emergency vehicles with flashing lights. It was revised this year to include utility crews.

Officials say drivers are speeding by much too close to the workers. 

danIIIr/flickr

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has issued fireworks licenses to 664 retail dealers in Iowa in the first year of a new law authorizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks.

But officials say only about two-thirds of the required inspections were completed, due to a shortfall in time and resources.  

Department of Public Safety attorney Barbara Edmondson briefed state lawmakers on the Administrative Rules Review Committee on the new licensing program.  

Linn County Fair

New signs are going up at county fairs across the state warning of the possibility of infections, including e-coli, as part of a new state law protecting fairs from lawsuits.   

The law absolves fair boards from liability if they properly advise fairgoers to wash their hands after touching animals in livestock exhibits and take other precautions to prevent infection.    

Wikimedia

Boards of Supervisors in two Iowa counties have voted to get rid of bans on weapons in their courthouses, ahead of a new firearms law going into effect July 1.   

The votes are in conflict with an order by Chief Justice Mark Cady banning weapons in courthouses in all 99 counties.  

Woodbury County has banned weapons in the courthouse since 2014.  

But the new state firearms law says local governments can be sued over weapons restrictions, so supervisors voted Tuesday 3 to 1 to lift the ban.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds says she is not concerned about support for wind energy from the new Trump administration,  in spite of the president’s remarks in Cedar Rapids last week.  

In comments at the U.S. Cellular Center, Trump implied that wind energy is not reliable and endangers wildlife, sparking concern from industry backers.

But Reynolds said she’s not worried that the Trump administration will pull back on federal support

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she is studying the controversial health care bill unveiled in the Senate yesterday.    

But the freshman Republican is not ready to say whether she’ll vote for the measure that reduces health care benefits for Americans currently on Obamacare, and cuts federal dollars for low-income and disabled Americans.   

“It was just released yesterday,” Ernst said at a statehouse news conference, “so we have 142 pages to go through. I want to make sure that I've had time to go through it, talk to my staff, talk to folks around Iowa.”    

Joyce Russell/IPR

The first ever all-Iowa agriculture trade mission to China will take place this summer, with Governor Kim Reynolds leading representatives from all of Iowa’s main agriculture commodity groups.   

Pork, beef, turkey, corn, soybean, egg and dairy producers will visit with government officials in Beijing, Shanghai and Xian to encourage more purchase of Iowa commodities. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

An Iowa author’s book about Governor Branstad’s long tenure in office is being translated into Chinese by a Beijing publisher.  

Newton author and former newspaperman Mike Chapman wrote Iowa’s Record Setting Governor: The Terry Branstad Story in 2015.  

Two Chinese publishers expressed an interest in translating the book.

Joyce Russell/IPR

One difference is emerging in the workday customs of new Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and her predecessor Terry Branstad.  

Instead of working in a private office on the ground floor of the capitol, Reynolds will conduct daily business in the governor’s more public and expansive formal office upstairs.  

In recent administrations the formal office has been the setting for receptions and bill-signings, but Reynolds plans to work there every day.

Joyce Russell/IPR

On her first full day in office, Gov. Kim Reynolds today named an acting lieutenant governor to serve with her as she completes the last 20 months of Gov. Terry Branstad’s term.  

But to comply with an attorney general’s ruling, the new appointee will not officially hold the office and will not become governor if Reynolds should be unable to serve.   

John Pemble/IPR

Kimberly Kay Reynolds officially became Iowa’s 43rd governor and the state’s first female chief executive in formal ceremonies at the statehouse Wednesday. 

First, Governor Branstad had to formally resign.

“I’m pleased to present my letter of resignation as I prepare for this exciting new adventure as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” Branstad said in a ceremony in his formal office.      

Then the attention shifted to the statehouse rotunda where Chief Justice Mark Cady delivered the oath of office to Reynolds before invited guests and friends.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov.Terry  Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday held the final statehouse news conference of Branstad’s long career,  outlining plans for official swearing-in ceremonies on Wednesday.

Branstad will resign from office and be sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to China.   Then Reynolds will be sworn in as the 43rd governor of Iowa.    

At the news conference, Reynolds thanked the governor for their years of service together

iprimages

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has asked the FBI for copies of memos that may exist documenting conversations former director James Comey had with his superiors in the Trump administration.   

That follows reports suggesting the president may have tried to influence an FBI probe.

The New York Times reports that Comey created memos regarding his interactions with the president, documenting what he perceived as improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation.    

AgriLife Today

Iowa beef products could be reaching Chinese consumers by mid-July under a U.S.-Chinese trade agreement announced last week.

China imposed an embargo on U.S. beef after a case of Mad Cow disease in 2003.  

At his weekly news conference, Branstad called lifting the embargo a “really big deal.”

“This is something we wanted for years and years,” Branstad said.   “So I intend to bring Iowa premium beef to China and I intend to serve it in the ambassador’s residence and in the embassy.”      

John Pemble / IPR

Governor Branstad is about to complete his tenure as Iowa’s and the nation’s longest serving governor with his likely confirmation soon as U.S. Ambassador to China.    As Iowans weigh in on the Branstad legacy, views differ depending on whether you’re looking at Branstad’s earlier terms, or those he’s just completing.    

For Des Moines attorney Doug Gross, Gov. Branstad’s chief of staff in  his early years in office, it's not difficult to name Branstad's biggest achievement from that time up to now.

Joyce Russell/IPR

As a crowd of legislators and other supporters looked on, Gov. Terry Branstad today signed a bill legalizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks in the state for the first time since the 1930’s.  

The bill goes into effect at once.

The governor expects the Fire Marshal’s Office to have rules in place to enable the sale and use of fireworks for this 4th of July.    

Applause broke out as the governor signed the bill.

“Let the fireworks begin,” Branstad declared.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds says it’s too early to recommend any change in state policy, after last week’s fatal shooting of Pottawattamie County deputy Mark Burbridge, whose funeral was held in Council Bluffs today.

Deputy Burbridge was killed in the line of duty when an inmate he was escorting back to jail with another deputy took one their firearms and shot them both.    

Reynolds says the Branstad administration will stay in touch with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Department officials as they review the incident.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

In a surprise formal opinion issued today, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller concluded that Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds should not appoint a new lieutenant governor when she assumes the state’s highest office.   

The opinion contradicts an informal opinion from Miller last year.   

Republicans are sharply critical of the new advice.

In December, Miller’s office said it had researched Iowa law and consulted with the governor’s office.

John Pemble

For the first time in 20 years, Republicans held majorities in the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, with a Republican in the governor’s office.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on what was accomplished this legislative session with panelists: Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register, James Lynch of The Gazette, Barbara Rodriguez of the AP, and Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent, Joyce Russell.

Joyce Russell/IPR

In a heated exchange with reporters, Governor Branstad today defended GOP lawmakers for approving $150,000 in transition expenses for Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds as she assumes the governorship.      

Democrats called the appropriation extravagant in a year when budgets are being cut across state government.    

But Branstad compared the fund to past transition appropriations.

“The same Democrats when they controlled everything, gave $170,000 for [Gov. Chet] Culver's transition,” Branstad said.

His voice rising higher, Branstad implied that sexism was involved.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa legislature adjourned for the 2017 legislative session on Saturday, after pulling an all-nighter on Friday. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters spoke with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

John Pemble/IPR

After working through Friday night, the Iowa legislature wrapped up its 2017 legislative session, what some are calling historic for the sheer number of Republican initiatives approved.       

The majority party left a few major priorities undone with promises to take them up next year.  

With Republicans in charge of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, the way was cleared for major initiatives to take flight.   

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

A Republican proposal to get rid of Iowa’s Art in State Buildings program sparked a contentious debate in the Iowa Senate Thursday.  

The program sets aside a small percentage of the cost of state building projects to commission onsite paintings and sculpture.  

GOP lawmakers say they’ve heard a lot of criticism about the artworks on campuses, at rest stops, and around the capitol complex.  

Since the program began in 1979, art work has been included in some 160 state buildings

Iowa General Assembly

Two of Governor Branstad’s re-appointments to the Iowa Board of Medicine failed to get the votes needed for confirmation in the Iowa Senate last night, going down to defeat over the issue of abortion.  

In 2013 Board Chair Diane Clark, a public member from Lake Mills, and Dr. Hamed Tewfik, a physician from Iowa City,  voted to stop Planned Parenthood’s telemed abortion program, which allows women to obtain medical abortions from remote locations without a physician present.  

Senator Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) led the opposition to the appointees.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A last minute Republican-sponsored budget bill introduced this week at the statehouse should ensure that Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds has the resources she needs to take over as governor.  

Reynolds will assume the office when Governor  Branstad leaves to become U.S. Ambassador to China.    

At the request of the Branstad/Reynolds administration, the bill appropriates $150,000 for transition expenses.    

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) says with so many budgets getting cut this year, the request was carefully considered:

Pages