Sarah Boden

Reporter

Sarah Boden is a Des Moines-based reporter for Iowa Public Radio. Before coming to Iowa, she was a freelance reporter and radio producer in the Twin Cities. In addition to IPR, Sarah's work has appeared on NPR, WBUR's "Here and Now" and Harvest Public Media.

Sarah's favorite public radio program is On The Media. 

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Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Iowa’s Chief Justice Mark Cady is calling on the state to pay closer attention to who serves on juries as a way of reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. During his annual Condition of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, Cady told lawmakers one of the ways Iowa can work to combat inequality is to track and maintain data on the racial composition of juries.

"The internal data will help us determine if [the] jury selection process we use could be improved," says Cady.

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Terry Branstad told lawmakers, “It’s time for a fresh look at our criminal justice system," during his annual Condition of the State Address.

Branstad proposes sealing the criminal records of juveniles, working to make juries more racially diverse, and making sure a defendant’s race does not play a role in how they are charged, tried, or sentenced.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Trustees from the U.S. Conference of Mayors were in Des Moines Monday afternoon, ahead of the Brown and Black Presidential Forum at Drake University. The annual forum is geared towards African-American and Latino voters, and the mayors were discussing salient issues in urban and minority communities. 

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Gov. Terry Branstad says the budget he’ll present tomorrow along with the annual Condition of the State Address is “very tight," but he adds lawmakers shouldn’t be caught off-guard by want he’s proposing this legislative session. 

"There's no surprise," says Branstad. "I think I've done a pretty good job of visiting with legislators about the tough decisions we have to make." 

Flickr / Paul Weaver

Requests for permits-to-carry for firearms are flooding county sheriff’s offices across Iowa. Some places are seeing increases of 300 to 400 percent. 

These law enforcement officials say the deluge is largely due to the fact the legislature extended Iowa’s permit-to-carry from a one to a five-year expiration back in January 2011. Now this first group is up for renewal and by law, once an application is submitted a permit must be issued within 30 days.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says he plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with what he calls, “health empowerment accounts.” 

During a town hall meeting in Panora on Wednesday, the retired neurosurgeon described health empowerment accounts as health-savings accounts, "but with no bureaucrats.” Everyone with a Social Security number would get an account, and families would be able to shift money among themselves to pay for medical care.

Flickr / IowaPolitics.com

Iowa's Senate Majority Leader says there will be legislation that provides oversight of the transition of Iowa’s Medicaid program into management by private companies. 

"The rollout of this managed care has been messy and we're going to standup for the patients and for providers out there that need to understand the rules of the game," says Democrat Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, who has been a vocal critic of Medicaid privatization. "We don't think there are enough protections right now in that process, so we're going to keep working on that."

Iowa Public Radio / Clay Masters

Iowa's governor wants to kill two birds with one stone.

Gov. Terry Branstad says by extending a sales tax increase enacted in 2008* to 2049, schools will get an additional $10 million annually for things like technology and infrastructure projects. He projects that the state will also raise nearly $4.7 billion in this period to address soil and water conservation issues related to agriculture.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

Registering to vote in Iowa just got a whole lot easier, provided you have a driver’s license or state-issued ID. A new portal allows the Iowa Department of Transportation to share a voter’s information with Iowa’s Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Paul Pate says the portal is a more accurate and efficient way to maintain voter information, and will make Iowa voting a quicker process. 

Harvest Public Media / Peggy Lowe

Iowa isn’t requiring new bio security standards at its poultry facilities in the wake of last spring’s catastrophic outbreak of avian flu, but many farms are creating heightened bio-security barriers. Though there is no concrete proof of how bird flu spread so far and so rapidly, it’s widely believed humans played a large role in spreading the disease across the Midwest. 

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stumped at Northstar Elementary  School in Knoxville on New Year's Eve morning.

The Vermont senator, who is running as a Democrat, says Wall Street's "recklessness" destroyed the economy with the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. For this reason he says big financial institutions should help pay for free college education in the U.S. through a tax on speculation, or high-risk trading.

Kids on Hawk-I, Iowa’s Medicaid program for low income children, are receiving new insurance cards in the mail. But they might not put them to much use, since Iowa’s Medicaid program is scheduled to go into privatized management on March 1.

Initially the transition to privatization was scheduled for New Year’s Day. In anticipation of this date, insurer Wellmark scaled back its Hawk-I resources; but now the transition is scheduled for March so Wellmark’s Hawk-I contracts need a new home.

Flickr / Jason Mrachina

There were 21 homicides in Des Moines in 2015. This is nearly double the number of homicides from 2014, which saw 11.

The last time the city saw at least 20 homicides in a single year was in 1995. Back then gang activity was a major factor, but in 2015 that's not the case and the Des Moines Police Department says it's unclear why the number of homicides was higher in 2015. 

Flickr / slappytheseal

Iowa’s ban on live poultry exhibitions, swap meets, exotic sales, and other gatherings of birds is ending on New Year’s Day.

The final poultry operation that was infected with avian flu came out of quarantine this month, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says it considers gatherings of live birds to be safe now.

JOHN PEMBLE

*This is an updated version of this story. 

If you don’t have to travel, it's best to stay off Iowa roads today since the blizzard that blanketed parts of the southwest U.S. has moved into the Midwest as a heavy snowstorm. Roughly 5000 Iowa Department of Transportation trucks are out clearing snow from the state’s interstates and highways, most of which are partially or completely covered with snow, ice and slush.

Deb Zeller

A bronze statue stolen from downtown Sioux City will return by next summer, with some repairs and a new pedestal, which is designed to be more secure. So secure that Sioux City Art Center won't give too many details on the new mount for "Goddess of the Grapes." 

"Well if I told you, it wouldn't be a secured design," laughs Al Harris-Fernandez, director of the art center. "It's just something that will give us more to attach the sculpture onto so that it can't be easily removed." 

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Federal officials have told Iowa the state is not ready to transition management of its Medicaid system to private companies.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told Iowa in a letter today it may transition to private management on March 1st instead of January 1st, 2016, as long as the state makes sufficient progress toward readiness by that time.  

The agency says, “a transition on January 1st would risk serious disruption in the care for Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries.”

Flickr / John M

It might not help you burn off that large Thanksgiving meal, but a new study from the University of Iowa says people who use desks designing for sitting and standing at work do burn about 87 more calories a day, compared to coworkers who only sit.

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

Parts of Iowa are still facing flooding as a result of this past weekend’s rain. The National Weather Service says as rainwater in central Iowa flows southeast into rivers and streams, agricultural fields and low-lying roads will be submerged. 

"The one thing to note though is that the streams widen as they go down stream, so they they can handle more water" says NWS meteorologist Rod Donavon. "The impacts will be lessened as we get down towards the Ottumwa area, for example, on the Des Moines River." 

A coalition of religious leaders is having a unity prayer gathering on west steps of the State Capitol on Sunday. The group’s purpose is to show solidarity with Iowa Muslims, in light of what it calls, “hateful, divisive language" against Muslims in recent days.

Rev. Billy Young, president of the Pastors and Ministers Alliance of Des Moines, plans to attend. He says the current anti-Muslim climate reminds him of his childhood in Mississippi, where the Klu Klux Klan burnt a cross on his front lawn because his family was African-American.

Flickr / William Patrick Butler

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is in Iowa this week accessing the state’s readiness to transition the management of Iowa’s Medicaid program into the hands of four private companies on Jan. 1. Critics say the process has been unorganized and rushed, and many Medicaid recipients complain they don’t have enough information to determine which, if any, of the Managed Care Organizations best fits their coverage needs.

Flickr / Consumerist Dot Com Follow

Iowa’s Department of Human Services says United Healthcare has signed the most Medicaid providers of the four private Managed Care Organizations that are slated to take over management of the state’s Medicaid system on Jan. 1. United Healthcare has signed almost 66 percent of the state’s nearly 30,000 Medicaid providers, Amerigroup has signed 57 percent, WellCare 50 percent, and AmeriHealth Caritas 43 percent.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The Department of Human Services says it is not sure exactly how many of the nearly 30,000 Medicaid providers in Iowa have signed with at least one of the four for-profit companies that will take over Iowa’s Medicaid management on Jan. 1. This lack of information was one of the points Democrats used in a failed effort to delay the transition during Monday's Health Policy Oversight Committee meeting.

"I'm a little disappointed in the numbers you're giving me," says Rep. John Forbes of Urbandale. "Twenty-five days before this goes live. I have some concerns about that." 

Flickr / Tyler

At the Iowa Taxpayers Association's annual symposium on Friday, elected officials discussed Medicaid and the program's transition into management by four private, for-profit companies. The change is scheduled for January 1st, but many say this is a rushed deadline. 

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says he anticipates that during the next legislative session, a lot of focus will be devoted to resolving Medicaid-related issues. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that plea bargains may not be undermined by the prosecution, which negotiates agreements with defense attorneys. 

Andrew Lopez pleaded guilty in 2013 to child endangerment. He reached a plea bargain that recommended probation and no-contact agreement. 

At Lopez's sentencing hearing the prosecuting attorney submitted new evidence at a sentencing hearing, including photos of burn and bite marks on the toddler involved. The judge in the case sentenced him to a prison sentence of up to five years. 

Flickr / Laura Taylor

A new study from the University of Iowa shows that for some patients with stage IV breast cancer, surgery can significantly prolong their lives. 

Once breast cancer reaches stage IV, the disease has spread to parts of the body beyond the breasts. Many doctors consider these patients incurable and won't operate as they don't want to incur the risks of surgery in an already terminal patient.

But it turns out surgery may be worthwhile. 

Flickr / Cathy Brown Brown

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, is siding with farmers on a renewable fuel rule. The EPA will increase the quantity of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply above its initial proposal earlier this year, but many corn growers and other ethanol advocates are upset that the new level still falls short of what was originally projected back in 2007.

Flickr / Pictures of Money

For nonprofit organizations in Iowa and around the country, today is “Giving Tuesday,” a day marking the unofficial start of the charitable-giving season. But before you give, it’s wise to checkout a charity’s credentials.

Photo by John Pemble

Gov. Terry Branstad says the state will move forward as planned with the January 1st deadline for Medicaid privatization in Iowa. That’s despite last week’s recommendation from Administrative Law Judge Christie Scase that the state dismiss one of four contracts it awarded to for-profit companies to manage Iowa’s Medicaid programs.

Flickr / Peter & Joyce Grace

The Friday after Thanksgiving can be a busy day for many of Iowa’s roughly 100 choose-and-harvest Christmas farms, as many growers sell their first trees of the season.

A number of Iowans still prefer buying a real tree, as opposed to an artificial one, though these trees require additional maintenance. One of the most important parts of Christmas tree maintenance is keeping the tree hydrated. 

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