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.

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Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is putting to rest persistent rumors that Governor Branstad will retire before his four-year term ends, putting Reynolds into office and setting her up as the incumbent in 2018.    

The governor has long denied any such intention.    

The rumor got new life with news reports that Branstad could become ambassador to China under a new Donald Trump administration.   

Reynolds was asked at the administration’s weekly news conference if she had discussed the possibility with the governor.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Officials with Governor Branstad’s administration say they hope to double the number of registered apprenticeships with Iowa employers over the next five years, part of their goal to get more Iowans into post high-school training and education.   

Under the program, trainees are paid to learn a trade or other job skills.    

Eighteen-year-old Josh Smith is working for Mid-American Energy while learning welding at Central Campus High School in Des Moines. 

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled Governor Branstad had the authority to close the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant last year.      

The court threw out a complaint by two dozen Democrats in the state legislature and the president of the union that represented many of the workers at the two facilities.  

The Mental Health Institutes were closed on June 30th of last year, putting members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees out of work.

John Pemble/IPR

The Republican party did well in statehouse races across the country Tuesday, and the Iowa GOP did its part for the victory.   

Republicans took control of the Iowa Senate, continuing a nationwide trend over the past several years.   

Daniel Diorio with the National Conference of State Legislatures says Republicans now control two-thirds of all House and Senate chambers nationwide. 

“Republicans are at their all-time high for state chamber control,” Diorio said.   “So they have really dominated ever since 2010 state legislatures across the country.”

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Republican Party is celebrating a victory in the Iowa Senate.  

After Tuesday’s voting,   Republicans picked up six seats to win a new 29 to 19 majority, the first time the GOP has controlled both Houses of the legislature since the 2002 election.  

It’s the first time since the 1996 election that Republicans held the trifecta:  the governor’s office and both the House and Senate.      

Senate minority leader Bill Dix, soon to be majority leader, addressed a cheering crowd at the GOP watch party in Des Moines.

Joyce Russell/IPR

One of Donald Trump’s most combative supporters, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, traveled the state Wednesday, drumming up support for the Republican candidate for president ahead of next week’s election.    

A standing room only crowd of Trump supporters showed up at a 7 a.m. meeting of the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale to hear the former federal prosecutor.     

To an approving crowd, Giuliani did not pull any punches in attacking Hillary Clinton.   

He called the Clinton family a criminal enterprise.

Joyce Russell/IPR

State tourism officials have named three new byways through the state, including the historic Jefferson Highway.

The route was first designated 100 years ago, envisioned as the north-south equivalent to the Lincoln Highway.

It runs from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans, following Highways 65 and 69 from Northwood to Lamoni in Iowa.

New markers will go up along the historic route in time for the 2018 tourism season.

Loring Miller of Leon in Decatur County is one of the project’s boosters.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

While all eyes are on a recently tight presidential race, politicos in Iowa are considering another razor thin margin: that of the Iowa Senate. With a Republican governor and the GOP holding 57 of the 100 seats in the House of Representatives, the outcome of one or two state senate races could determine whether the Republicans get a Statehouse trifecta.

John Pemble/IPR

Democrats in the Iowa Senate who stood in the way of gun rights bills are now facing opposition for re-election in several districts around the state.  

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is working to defeat the incumbents, in hopes of achieving a Republican majority in the Senate.

Last year the Republican-controlled House approved bills to protect the confidentiality of gun permit holders, and to eliminate age restrictions for children handling guns with adult supervision.    In 2015 a wide-ranging gun bill would have eliminated background checks for private handgun sales.

Michael Leland/IPR

As Iowans prepare to cast their ballots next week, the race is on for control of the Iowa Senate where Democrats have a slim 26-24 majority.    If Republicans take enough seats to win the majority,   it will mean the GOP will be in charge of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since the 1996 election.   Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kauffman says the two parties are competing hard in competitive districts across the state.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is speaking out against the reported behavior of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump toward women over the years. 

But she predicts that when Iowa voters go to the polls next month they will focus on other issues.      

At the Branstad administration’s weekly news conference, Reynolds was asked about reports of sexual harassment and assault against Trump.

WonderWhy/flickr

Governor Branstad says a higher minimum wage in some parts of the state but not others is causing problems for businesses and local governments.   

He says he’ll work with the legislature to try to agree on a higher statewide minimum wage.

Linn, Polk, Wapello, and Johnson Counties have approved a higher countywide minimum wage.    But not all towns in those counties have gone along.  

Also, the governor says, some cities straddle county lines.  

Rob Dillard/IPR

Governor Branstad says the Iowa Highway Patrol will be available to help local law enforcement police a planned protest against the controversial Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline.  

Critics threaten to engage in civil disobedience Wednesday to stop construction at a rural Boone County location.  

At his weekly news conference Branstad, says the Iowa Highway Patrol protects the safety and well-being of Iowans.

“Whether it is at the State Fair or on the highways or wherever it might be,” Branstad says.

Iowa Public Radio/Sarah Boden

A federal report released last year shows in 2014, for-profit companies managing part of Iowa’s three billion dollar Medicaid program made far fewer faulty payments than the state-run portion of the program.  

Governor Branstad says that shows fraud and abuse will go down, now that for-profit companies are in charge of most of Iowa’s Medicaid patients.      

Joyce Russell/IPR

A now five-year effort to beef up science and technology education in Iowa schools is paying off, according to a study by Iowa’s three Regents universities. The program is known by the acronym "STEM," which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Backers say boosting STEM fields will help Iowa companies find employees for good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and other fields. STEM Advisory Council Director Jeff Weld says the results so far are encouraging. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Terry Branstad confirmed on Monday that the for-profit companies now managing Iowa’s multi-billion dollar Medicaid program did not follow the rules in the first two months of operation. But the governor also says the state issued no warnings or fees, in spite of complaints of late payments to health care providers and delayed care to patients.  

Kim Weaver is the Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 4th congressional district, challenging seven term incumbent Republican Steve King.     

Weaver is a state employee from Sheldon.    If elected, she would be Iowa’s first female member of the U.S. House.

Before a small crowd of fairgoers, Weaver called for a higher minimum wage, help for student debt, better mental health services for veterans, and immigration reform.   She says even the Farm Bureau agrees with her on immigration.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Des Moines Register editor and NBC news executive Michael Gartner is weighing in on the Donald Trump campaign’s practice of denying press credentials for prominent news organizations.

Gartner calls it “loopy”, but he’s downplaying the effect of the policy.

“Any reporter who's worth her salt can get into anything,” Gartner said.

However, a Washington Post reporter was recently barred from a rally for vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence even as a regular citizen.    

Rebecca Sales/Flickr

That phone book delivered to your doorstep every year may soon become a thing of the past under new rules the Iowa Utilities Board is considering.  

Industry representatives say the new rules would bring the state’s telecommunications industry into the modern era.

Under the rules, telecommunications companies would no longer be required to provide the books, although industry representatives say they would be provided upon request.

Michael Sadler with CenturyLink says the paper books are getting used less all the time.

Gage Skidmore/flickr

A spokesman for Governor Branstad confirms that the governor has agreed to advise the Donald Trump campaign on renewable fuels and other issues, what the spokesman calls “issues important to Iowans".  

But the spokesman declined to comment on reports that another prominent Iowan, agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter, is on the list for a job in a Trump administration.  

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes is downplaying the announcement about the governor advising Trump.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Consumer advocates who are worried about elderly Iowans in particular pleaded with the Iowa Utilities Board Tuesday not to ease up on phone companies who provide landline service, especially in rural Iowa.  

The Board is considering rules to give companies more time to restore service when there’s been a phone outage. 

Anthony Carroll with the AARP says thousands of Iowans without cellphones still rely on landlines for everyday needs, including dialing 9-1-1.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is urging the administrators who oversee spending for Iowa’s Regents universities to keep a close eye on their budgets, after reports of large salaries at the Regents administrative offices.   

Due to the salary for the board’s executive director and other expenses, over $3.5 million will come from the universities themselves to keep the board office running.   

Branstad says the cost of running the board should stay as reasonable as possible.

John Pemble/IPR
John Pemble/IPR

There are enough state troopers roaming the Iowa State Fairgounds, so fairgoers don’t need to bring in their own weapons to protect themselves.     

That’s from Governor Branstad, commenting on the current ban on fairgoers carrying loaded guns, even  for those with concealed weapons permits.

Branstad says he supports the right to carry.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad’s chief information officer says state government is at moderate risk of attack by hackers and other malicious operators on the internet, and a new cybersecurity strategy should help mitigate that risk.    

Robert von Wolffradt says state government is concerned about the kind of attack on the Department of Revenue in South Carolina that exposed social security and credit card numbers for thousands of taxpayers.   

He says the new strategy includes a comprehensive analysis of risk and how to mitigate it.

Trump in Des Moines

Aug 8, 2016
Clay Masters/IPR

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump along with his running mate Mike Pence attracted an enthusiastic crowd of over 1500  at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on Friday.

The crowd cheered wildly as Trump repeated his call for a wall to keep immigrants out of the country, with Mexico covering the cost.      

 And they yelled “lock her up” as Trump mocked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton lacks the temperament, judgement, and moral character to lead this country,”   Trump said.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, after Trump got into a so-called war of words with the father of a soldier who died in Iraq.  

At last week’s Democratic convention, with his wife by his side, Khizr Khan spoke out against Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States until security concerns are addressed. 

Trump calls that a vicious attack, and he questioned why the dead soldier’s mother didn’t speak. 

Branstad suggests Democrats set a trap for the candidate by having Khan speak.

niXerKG / Flickr

Recent videos of police shooting unarmed black men and recent shootings of police officers have led to increased unrest between two groups already used to tension.

On this edition of River to River, Joyce Russell hosts the final conversation of Iowa Public Radio’s “Beyond Iowa Nice” series by bringing black Iowans and police together to talk about what can be done to ease tensions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he will not accompany GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on his first visit to the state this week since winning the nomination, but that’s because of scheduling conflicts, and he does plan to appear with Trump in future visits to Iowa.  

Grassley will be on Iowa ballots this fall along with Trump, sparking speculation about how one campaign might be affected by the other.       

Grassley recalls in 2004, he was on the ballot with incumbent GOP president George W. Bush.   

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he wants more information about a cyber attack at the Democratic National Committee that resulted in the online publication of thousands of sensitive e-mails.   

The FBI is investigating whether Russia broke into DNC servers and handed over information to Wiki-Leaks which promptly posted it online.  

Grassley says it’s believable Russia was behind it.

"I believe they have the capability and the history of doing it, but do I know they're specifically involved in this hacking?" Grassley asks. “I don't know.” 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Dozens of health care providers and others crowded a committee room at the statehouse today.  

Democrats in the Iowa Senate held a hearing on problems with Iowa’s new privately managed Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled.

The issues include  delayed payments for providers, and claims denied for services.

Hospitals and others say they’re borrowing money to cover expenses while they wait for reimbursement.  

Others have laid off employees because of the shortfall.

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