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 producer in Minnesota.

In addition to IPR, Sarah's work has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend All Things Considered and WBUR's Here and Now.

Her reporting has won multiple awards, including a regional Edward R. Murrow for her story on a legal challenge to Iowa's felon voting ban.

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

Ways to Connect

Flickr / Scott McLeod

Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in the row, reaching a new high of 91.3 percent. However dropout rates also rose in the past year, up to 2.8 percent. 

The two measurements track different cohorts of students.  The graduation rate looks a single class over the course of four years, and the dropout rate counts the number of kids who quit high school in a single year.

Staci Hupp of the Iowa Department of Education says the latter metric on drop outs is a reminder that Iowa still has work to do. 

Three staffers from Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis last week. They're appealing criminal convictions related to a conspiracy to hide payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson, who resigned endorsed Paul days before the Iowa Caucuses.

The Iowa Hospital Association says it’s important not to lose the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. The warning comes after the insurance carriers Aetna and Wellmark announced this week that in 2018, they’ll stop selling individual policies on Iowa’s healthcare exchange created under the ACA.

Iowa will soon have only two insurance carriers providing individual healthcare policies. Connecticut-based Aetna has become the second company this week to announce it will stop selling insurance policies on Iowa’s public exchange in January 2018.

Earlier this week the Iowa Insurance Commission announced that Wellmark would also no longer provide individual plans in Iowa. Wellmark says rising costs are causing its departure. Aetna cites financial risk and an uncertain market outlook for its decision to exit.

NSHEPARD / FLICKR

At least two of Iowa’s 99 county auditors say a directive from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to verify the status of felons in a state voter registration database is an expensive and legally burdensome unfunded mandate. 

Early this year, counties were told that in April they would receive instructions for processing voter records to determine if any felons were illegally registered to vote. Counties received these directions Monday, and the auditors of Linn and Johnson counties are not happy.

Today the full Senate will debate the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fate of the filibuster hangs in the balance. 

Democrats will probably vote to extend debate on the vote indefinitely, which effectively blocks the nomination. If this happens, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely pull the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments, and this would result in Gorsuch’s confirmation. 

Iowans will have to wait a bit longer to get their state tax refunds this year, as fraud prevention is creating delays.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a prime target for criminals, so the federal government is taking more time to process tax returns. Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue says this affects state tax refunds as well.

Iowa transgender-rights activists discussed a survey on the state’s transgender and gender-nonconforming community, results being called “unacceptable” and “inexcusable.”

For example, nearly a quarter of the 219 transgender and gender-nonconforming Iowans surveyed say they live in poverty, and 30 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year, out of fear of being mistreated.

WIKICOMMONS / US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

An Iowa State neuroscience lab has discovered a way to study the early stages of protein-misfolding diseases like Parkinson’s or Chronic Wasting Disease, and this may aid the development of new treatments.

These diseases are tricky to detect in incubation period. For example if someone has Alzheimer’s, it won’t be apparent that person is sick until they start exhibiting symptoms. 

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

Five counties in eastern Iowa are trying out a less formal approach to family court in hopes of resolving cases faster and preserving court resources.  

Judge Nancy Tabor of Scott County says currently her docket is full of people representing themselves. Most people aren’t familiar with the court system, which means these cases take a lot of time.

So Tabor is trying out a more straightforward approach.

Flickr / Skywayman

While Iowa’s metropolitan communities continued to make population gains in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau says the state's small towns got smaller. In just the last year Iowa’s micropolitans, communities with 10,000-50,000 people, shrunk in population by a net total of 0.4 percent.

The Spencer and Fort Madison-Keokuk communities saw the greatest declines in 2016.  Both lost one percent of their populations. Though since 2010, Clinton’s population has contracted the most -- by 3.7 percent.

Flickr / Regina Hart

Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America. 

The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere says it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert. 

John Pemble/IPR

A Democratic state senator says the head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services is lying about his lack of availability to attend an informal hearing, in order to cover up the “failure” and “incompetence” of DHS from investigating circumstances that lead to the death of a West Des Moines teen.

Sen. Matt McCoy of  Des Moines and other Democrats say Director Chuck Palmer is hiding that fact that staffing cuts prevented reports of child abuse and neglect from being properly investigated, and a result, 16-year-old Natalie Finn died of starvation back in October.

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

A hog confinement that could contain nearly 7,500 animals is being proposed in north-central Hancock County. County Supervisor Jerry Tlach says he’s in support of the new Peacock Farms facility. He says it will provide jobs for young farmers hoping to remain in area.

Flickr / Richard D Green

Legislation that limits the amount an injured employee can be compensated has passed the Iowa House along party lines. Republicans say changes to Iowa’s more than century-old workers’ compensation law are needed to keep the state's business climate competitive.

"I believe it’s a situation where we’re seeing rates go up across industry sectors," says GOP Representative Gary Carlson of Muscatine. "If I look at where Iowa used to be at the fifth or sixth lowest in the United States, and now we’re up in the 24th highest."

Flickr / Vance Shtraikh

Legislation that allows private companies in Iowa to test employees’ hair for drug use has passed out of the House Labor Committee along party lines with Republican support. 

"This is about testing for chronic long-term use," says Representative Jarad Klein of Washington County. "Is there a chronic long-term history of abuse of an illegal substance that would give them pause?"

Democrats raise concerns regarding the fairness and the efficacy of testing.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act by House Republicans will have to be rewritten. Yesterday the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that found some 24 million people who currently have health insurance would not be covered by 2026 under the GOP proposal. 

A group of mostly Democratic state lawmakers met with the head of Iowa’s Division of Adult, Child and Family Services Monday, and asked if a lack of social workers contributed to the starvation death of a West Des Moines teen in October. 

"The social workers are telling us that we should be protecting kids, we’re not because we’re over worked. 'Our staff load is too high. We’ve doubled our overtime in the last year,'" says State Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County. "Are we leaving vulnerable children out to fend for themselves when we don’t have adequate staffing?"

Flickr / Ted Murphy

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can consider the economic impact of a potential new casino on existing gambling operations, before approving the new casino’s application. That's according to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that commission was acting within its authority.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Hundreds of Iowans participated in Des Moines’s “Day Without Immigrants” march, an event that was one of many taking place around the country yesterday. 

The march is designed to highlight the importance of immigrant labor to the US economy. Dozens of Latino-owned businesses closed and people took off work to make the point that immigrants provide an important source of labor, often by taking on low-pay, backbreaking jobs many US citizens don’t want.

WIKICOMMONS / Richc80

The city of Nevada’s Chief of Police says his department has arrested an Ames man who reportedly threatened to kill, brand, and cause bodily harm to a transgender high school student. The student's gender identity is reportedly why he was targeted by 65-year-old Mondell Olson. 

Olson is accused of leaving two voicemails with these threats on a Nevada Community School District phone line. Chief Ricardo Martinez says Olson also sent an inappropriate and unwanted text message to a district teacher that was sexual in nature.

FLICKR / KATY WARNER

A case pending before the Iowa Supreme Court could result in the deportation of many immigrants who currently have legal status. It considers whether Muscatine County is interfering with federal immigration policy by prosecuting a woman for identity fraud and forgery.

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Iowa House Human Resources Committee will likely soon vote on a bill from the state Senate that takes away public family planning money from organizations that provide abortions. The legislation most affects 12 Planned Parenthood clinics.  

No state or federal dollars pay for abortion services. But people who want to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood argue that giving any public funding to these clinics still indirectly promotes abortion.

Laura Limmex of Ankeny says she opposes abortion, after having a horrible experience at age 16.

Flickr / Farragutful

The Iowa Supreme Court says a valid traffic stop can’t be prolonged without reasonable suspicion, once the original cause for that stop is resolved. As a result a man's aggravated misdemeanor conviction has been overturned. 

Flickr / Brad Covington

Some local governments are opposing legislation in the Republican-controlled Iowa house that would stop cities and counties from setting an hourly wage that’s higher than the state minimumIf the legislation becomes law this would lower the hourly wages in Johnson, Linn, Polk and Wapello counties.   

Since 2008, Iowa’s minimum wage has been $7.25, which is also the federal minimum. Many argue in 2017 that’s not enough.

WIKICOMMONS / Iznewton

Legislation that bans the transfer or receipt of fetal tissues has passed out of subcommittee in the Iowa state Senate. Federal law already makes it illegal to sell fetal tissues for profit, but supporters of the bill say they don’t want aborted fetuses used in research.  

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE

Sen. Chuck Grassley says he’s not concerned about a tweet by President Donald Trump that called a federal judge in Seattle a “so-called judge.” The president was responding to a ruling by Judge James Robart that temporarily blocks the president’s executive order on immigration, a ruling Trump called “ridiculous” in that same tweet.

 

Some say Trump’s comment is an attack on the separation of powers. But Grassley, who heads the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, says he doesn’t worry about what the president says.

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BAR ASSOCATION

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Iowa and six other Midwestern states, will soon be the most "lopsided" federal appeals court in terms of the number of judges appointed by a single party.

As Rox Laird writes in the Iowa appellate court blog "On Brief", due to several retirements, President Donald Trump is expected to appoint three new judges to the Eight Circuit’s bench. This means only one of the court’s eleven judges won’t be a Republican appointee.

Sarah Boden/IPR

A bill taking away federal family planning funding from organizations that provide abortions in Iowa has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by an eight-to-five vote along party lines.  The legislation turns down a total of $2.9 million federal dollars received via the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver. 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Iowa's largest abortion provider, stands to lose roughly $1 million in funding. Based on tax documents, this is about five percent of the organization's annual revenue. 

A diesel pipeline that ruptured and leaked last week northwest of  Mason City is back in use. Tom Byers of Magellan Midstream Partners says the defective portion of the 12-inch pipeline was cut out, and a new portion welded into place, allowing operations to resume on Saturday morning.

"Clean up is ongoing, on the site as we speak," says Byers. "That includes the removal of contaminated soil. We’ll be removing that soil and replacing it with clean soil."

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