River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury, @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in office have been a whirlwind. The same can be said for the first few weeks of the Iowa Legislature’s 2017 session.

During this special edition of River to River, recorded before a live audience at the Mill in Iowa City, host Ben Kieffer talks with columnists Todd Dorman and Lynda Waddington of the Gazette, as well as political reporter James Lynch. 

Conversation topics include Russia's interference into the U.S. Election, the likelihood of an investigation, collective bargaining rights in Iowa and many others. 

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa's U.S. senators are back in the state this week, drawing large, sometimes raucous crowds at town hall meetings. Attendance at Sen. Charles Grassley's gathering in Hancock county was reportedly more than 100. Sen. Joni Ernst drew a similar crowd at her event in Macquoketa.

Some Iowa attendees held signs supporting the Affordable Care Act and chanted "Do your job," and "Work for us." But do such protests make a difference to elected officials?

Mobilus In Mobili / Flickr

Just weeks after leaving the White House, President Barack Obama ranks as the 12th best president overall, according to a new poll of historians conducted by C-SPAN. It's the first time Obama is eligible for the Presidential Historians Survey, which asked 91 historians to rank all 43 former presidents across 10 categories. 

Larry Koester

Russia has received a lot of attention in America recently, due to evidence of Russia meddling in the last U.S. presidential election, news of Donald Trump aides’ contact with Russian officials, and military moves including an intelligence ship spotted cruising just off the East Coast and a cruise missile test that may violate a 1987 arms treaty.

Congress.gov

Iowa’s only Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives says he still doesn’t know the details of what Republicans will propose as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.  Dave Loebsack is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will vote on a replacement before sending it to the full House.

“So far what I have heard is that what they have offered is wholly inadequate and it doesn’t deal with the problems that we tried to deal with in the Obamacare legislation,” he says.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Traffic deaths in Iowa have been on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of fatalities increased by more than 80 deaths. Why?

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about distracted driving and legislation that’s been introduced at the statehouse that would allow a police officer to pull someone over for having a phone in their hand while behind the wheel.

Courtesy of the family of Fred T. Korematsu / keithpr - Flikr

Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the executive order by President Roosevelt that incarcerated 112,000 American residents of Japanese descent.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Mark Kende, the director of the Constitutional Law Center at Drake University, to discuss the implications of the 1941 order and a related SCOTUS ruling that may have impact in future court rulings on President Trump’s travel ban. 

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Mexico may be ready to hit America – and especially Iowa – where it hurts. Namely, in corn exports. Mexico is one of the top buyers of American corn, and Iowa is one of the top corn-producing states. In response to President Trump’s threats against Mexico, a Mexican senator said this week that he would introduce a bill that directs Mexico to buy its corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned Monday, after admitting he did not provide Vice President Mike Pence with complete information about phone conversations held with Russian intelligence during the Trump administration's transition.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer, professor of political science at Grinnell College, and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University about the resignation and the likelihood of a congressional investigation.

Dean Borg

Iowa’s Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King says he’s not overly concerned about a Mexican senator’s bill that could halt U.S. corn exports.

King says it’s one of the first signs of concrete action from Mexico in response to president Trump’s threats to impose high tariffs on Mexican goods..

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Republican lawmakers would like to rewrite Iowa’s public employee collective bargaining law. Their plans are laid out in companion bills, Senate File 213 and House File 291.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

A minimum wage law passed through committee in the House of Representatives at the state legislature this week.

"The bill in the House would prevent local governments in Iowa from passing higher minimum wage laws than the state minimum wage. As you know, four counties have done that," says IPR Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell.

The state minimum wage is currently at the federal level, $7.25 an hour.

Ted Eytan / Flickr

After a lengthy confirmation hearing, protests, and two Republicans breaking with their party to vote no, President Donald Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy Devos, was confirmed by the Senate. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump tweeted, "It is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country." [This statement is demonstrably false and will continue to be unless the confirmation process of Trump's cabinet takes an additional seven weeks.

Under a bill unveiled last week by Secretary of State Paul Pate, Iowa voters would be required to present identification at the voting booth. Pate says his proposal is aimed at ensuring the integrity of Iowa's elections. Democratic legislators and civil libertarians, however, have promised a fight over the issue. They raise concerns that new rules could suppress voter turnout. During this half hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Pate about his proposal. 

COD Newsroom / Flickr

Whether or not your team won last weekend, this year’s Super Bowl comes at a time when the Iowa legislature is considering new laws for so-called “collision sports” in Iowa schools.  

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

In the wake of President Trump’s executive order and the ensuing surge in donations to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Ben Kieffer talks to Rita Bettis, Legal Director for the ACLU of Iowa, about her organization’s reaction to the week’s events.

On President Trump’s travel ban

Quidster4040 / Wikimedia Commons

 

President Trump has signed seven executive orders and 11 presidential memos since Inauguration Day, including the order that restricts travel into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with University of Northern Iowa political scientists, Donna Hoffman and Scott Peters, who offer their analysis of the debate over Donald Trump’s slew of executive actions, including the contentious travel ban.

MONICA REYES, FOUNDER, DREAM IOWA

Yesterday, President Donald Trump fired the top federal government lawyer, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, after she took the rare step to defy the White House when she refused to defend new travel restrictions targeting seven nations which have a majority of Muslim citizens. The executive order signed Friday halts travel to the U.S. by residents of those countries, and suspends refugee admissions for 120 days. It also indefinitely shuts down the admission of Syrian refugees to the U.S. 

Wikimedia Commons

At 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, President Donald Trump will announce his nominee to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, which has remained unfilled since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Todd Pettys, a professor at the University of Iowa Law School, about possible nominees. 

Andrew Malone / Flickr

Nate Silver calls Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a polling firm based in West Des Moines, “America’s Best Pollster in Politics."

All that has happened relating to the November election seems long ago, but now that the dust has settled on that surprise outcome, Selzer says many underestimated the dissatisfied mood of the electorate.

Francisco Osorio / Flickr

A bill introduced in the Iowa Senate aims to block federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other Iowa agencies that, among other medical services, also provide abortions.

Note: Planned Parenthood currently receives a federal-state match of Medicaid dollars. While the funding goes towards family planning services only and does not fund abortion procedures, Planned Parenthood does provide abortions.

By discontinuing  the Medicaid Family Planning Network waiver, Iowa would lose about $3 million in Medicaid funding for family planning services.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

More than 2,000 firefighters across the state are being notified this week that their fire safety certifications were issued in error. These notifications come after the arrest on Tuesday of a former employee of the fire training safety bureau. During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks to Kyle Gorsch, State Fire Marshall Special Agent in charge of the investigation by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Since he took office Friday, President Donald Trump has signed a number of executive orders. He’s also continued to make claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote.

Dennis Goldford is professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Drake University, and he says Trump’s assertions are ludicrous.

“There is absolutely no evidence of any credible, systematic or widespread voter fraud,” says Goldford.

Kevin Burkett

Politics in the U.S. haven’t always been as bitterly partisan as they seem today – at least according to former Republican Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot, who served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 1997.

“[Democratic Rep. Dave Nagle] and I tried to be the grease that was in the gears that made the thing work, and now both parties are trying to be the sand in the gears to shut it down,” he says. “We had a much more bipartisan approach to things. There was a lot more comedy and comradeship than you see there today.”

Wikimedia Commons

A repeal of the Affordable Care Act could leave more than 230,000 Iowans, including 25,000 children under the age of 18, without health coverage. That’s according to the Iowa Policy Project. Peter Fisher is research director for the IPP. He says there are two ways the ACA expanded access to care in Iowa.

“About 70,000 people were covered by the Medicaid expansion, and another 47,000 received subsidies for their insurance when they purchased insurance on the exchange. So there are two ways that the ACA insured substantially more Iowans than were previously insured,” he explains.

Emily Woodbury

After nearly 42 years serving Iowa and Michigan prison systems, Iowa State Penitentiary Warden Nick Ludwick retires January 30. 

On retirement

"I've been asked if I have any regrets in my career, and my answer was 'Yes, I have one, and that is that I didn't come to Iowa sooner,'" he says. "This experience has been that positive of an experience for me."

John Pemble /IPR file photo

A Republican lawmaker is proposing a change to Iowa's self-defense law, saying that Iowa needs to rewrite a so-called 'stand your ground' statute.

"I feel that we’re limiting people the ability to stand up and protect themselves," says Mark Chelgren, a Republican Senator from Ottumwa. His bill "strikes the clause under the state's reasonable force statue that 'requires one to abandon or retreat'" if s/he feels threatened. 

Emily Woodbury

The night before President Donald Trump's inauguration, Iowans gathered in Cedar Rapids for another round of "Pints and Politics." At the end of the show, panelists: Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington, Todd Dorman, and Gazette political reporter James Lynch, each geared up for inauguration day by reciting their own Mad Libs inauguration speeches.

(Remember Mad Libs?  It’s the word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, before reading the – often comical or nonsensical – story aloud.)

angela n. / Flickr

As Donald Trump is inaugurated today, President Obama will be in attendance, following a tradition that highlights one of the most important aspects of inaugurations.

"It's an amazing event in that it signifies the peaceful transition of power, usually from one party to another," says Cary Covington, Associate Professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

Justin Sloan / Flickr

As President Obama's presidency draws to a close, the nation is reflecting on his eight years in office. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jessica Welburn, assistant professor of sociology & African American studies at the University of Iowa, Lori Chesser, Chair of Immigration Department at Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines, Donna Hoffman, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, about the legacy Obama leaves as a president, as a politician, and as a man.

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