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.

John Pemble/IPR

Lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 legislative session at the Statehouse on Friday, April 29. While the House and the Senate reached a deal on the budget which included tax credits for couples who adopt instead of defunding Planned Parenthood, they did not compromise on bills that would have expanded access to medical marijuana or funded new water quality initiatives in the state. 

Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia / Wikimedia Commons

Supporters of a sentencing reform bill approved by the Iowa legislature this session call it a "step in the right direction," despite the fact that there is bipartisan agreement that more steps are needed to address racial disparities in Iowa's criminal justice system.

The bill is awaiting Governor Terry Branstad's signature.

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

    

When Donald Trump made the comment that Hillary Clinton's only card was "the woman card," Clinton took up the mantle.

"If fighting for women's healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in."

Two Iowan siblings took it a bit more literally. Zach and Zebby Wahls are creating a deck of playing cards celebrating prominent women in American history. They launched a Kickstarter yesterday afternoon in the hopes of gaining $5,000 in 30 days.

It took three and a half hours.

Matt Dempsey / Flickr

When ESPN first launched in 1979, it was unclear how the public would respond to an all-sports cable channel. Three years later, a woman actually named ESPN in her divorce suit, claiming the network ruined her married by offering too much coverage. Travis Vogan says ESPN has fomented fanaticism not just for the teams it depicts, but for the network itself. One example of this? People naming their babies Espn (pronounced ‘es-pin’).

Joyce Russell/IPR

An expansion of Iowa’s medical cannabis law was defeated this week in the Iowa House, leading to an emotional reaction from affected families.

"I'm disappointed," says Sally Gaer. "I feel misled by the members of the House. We've been working on this for months, and what they did [Monday] night shows they have no conscience - pure and simple. They decided not to help Iowans most vulnerable because they, quite frankly, don't care."

Amy May / Iowa Public Radio

Hillary Clinton took four of five states that held primaries last night in the Northeast, bringing her closer to having a lock on the democratic nomination for president. Kedron Bardwell, Associate Professor of Political Science at Simpson College says he thinks challenger Bernie Sanders' supporters will support Clinton in the general election. 

"The Sanders supporters for the most part will stick with Hillary," he says. "The issues that Sanders cares about - it's not as if the Democratic Party has changed their positions that these issues are important."

Andrew Dallos / Flickr

The New York state attorney general and the city comptroller launched investigations after allegations of misconduct in the state's democratic primary last week. Hans Hassell, of Cornell College, says given the lack of transparency in the voting process there, he's not surprised.

Ben Kieffer

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have taken part in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, often referred to as the “United Nations of writers.”

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with several of this year’s writers who attended a welcome party in Iowa City earlier this week. They share poetry, their hopes for their time in the Midwest, and the struggles and inspiration they have brought with them from their home countries.

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr, Creative Commons

First established in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22nd every year to celebrate and support the protection of the environment. Has it worked?

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Earth Day has evolved from raising awareness, to sparking action, to returning results.

"There's an urgency now," says Rosenberg. "People have seen some progress in 46 years, but we do need to see awareness and action year-round."

Wikimedia Commons

As the Iowa legislature strives toward adjournment, we look to surrounding states to compare and contrast priorities at other statehouses in the Midwest during this hour of River to River. During this conversation, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell talks with Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting, Brian Mackey of WUIS in Springfield, Illinois, and Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Joanna Bourne / Flickr

Like most institutions, the University of Iowa uses coal in its power plants. It, however, also has a hyper-local source of fuel: discarded oat hulls from the Quaker Oats factory in Cedar Rapids.  With a landmark change in regulation between the university and the DNR, plus a dash of good weather, University of Iowa is able to explore a different type of fuel type. Ben Fish, associate director of Utilities and Energy Management at the University of Iowa, joined Clare Roth to discuss their efforts.

Al Ravenna, World Telegram & Sun

Thurgood Marshall is a familiar name to most, and his work as a Supreme Court Justice is known to many. But his enormous success as an attorney fighting for civil rights is not as prominent in our minds. Author Wil Haygood says that part of his life and legacy laid the groundwork for his Supreme court appointment. 

By refusing to schedule a hearing for President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has started a conversation about the importance and composition of the United States Supreme Court. E.J. Dionne, a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, says the controversy is an example of how the court has become increasingly politicized. 

John Pemble

The penny sales tax that funds school infrastructure projects is set to expire in 2029.

On this edition of River to River, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell hosts a discussion on the history and the future of the penny sales tax. She's joined by the Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, Thomas Ahart, as well as Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D) and Rep. Matt Windschitl (R). 

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

Iowa State University alum Vanessa McLean first documented her experience with sexual assault in her movie "I Am" in July of last year. Unexpectedly, she says, baring her soul for audiences was a catalyst.

"My healing took off after I was open about my experiences and it's something so powerful about saying that has been on your heart and mind all of your life," she says.

So she expanded her efforts and made a second film, "We Are Survivors," allowing for eight more sexual assault survivors to share their stories.

In his new book American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, Colin Woodard explores our relationship with our sense of individuality and our need for community.

He says the gridlock in our current political system highlights the tension.

Jens Alfke

What makes a crime infamous in the eyes of the law? That's a question currently being considered by the Iowa Supreme Court as the justices make a decision that could impact about 57,000 felons in Iowa who are currently banned from voting. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the Griffin v. Pate case with law expert Tony Gaughan of Drake University, Jamie Ross, a rehabilitated felon from Norwalk, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Ryan Harvey / Flickr

Iowa is one of only a handful of states where it isn't legal to cash out an online fantasy sports bet. That could change this legislative session. Rep. Jake Highfill, a Republican from Johnston, introduced legislation that would legalize cash prizes for participating in the games online. Rep. Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa, says that type of gaming needs regulation.

Amy Mayer

In 2015, an outbreak of avian flu led to the depopulation of 50 million birds across Iowa and the Midwest. During the height of the outbreak last summer, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration halted egg inspections to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says that the state halted inspections after the FDA announced they would do the same.

Remi Itani / International Organization for Migration / Flickr

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, fleeing war, poverty, and ecological disaster. The influx has sparked a crisis, as European counties struggle to cope with the human flood. It's also creating division in the European Union over how best to deal with resettling people. 

Senator Chuck Grassley is caught in the middle of the controversy over whether or not to hold hearings on D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Jim McCormick, political science professor at Iowa State University says that the move to block hearings on the nomination is “odd.”

From tomorrow on, the previously state-run Medicaid system will be managed by private companies called "managed care organizations," or MCOs. In the lead-up to the switch, many of those who benefit from Medicaid have struggled with getting information about coverage, payment, and benefits.

dagnyg / Flickr

Johnston father of three, Nathan Gibson, would like to take his daughters to fire handguns at a shooting range, but under state law they can't handle pistols until the age of fourteen.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Gibson and one of Gibson's daughters about their effort to eliminate the handgun use age limit. 

Pete Zarria / Flickr

Last weekend in Cedar Rapids, two people died of gunshot wounds in separate incidents. Community leaders gathered for a press conference Monday to discuss possible solutions. Among them was Dedric Doolin, Cedar Rapids Branch President of the NAACP and Director of the Area Substance Abuse Council. He says the problem of gun violence isn’t new and neither are attempts to solve it—from law enforcement, individuals, religious organizations, and non-profits.

Payton Chung, Flickr / Wikimedia Commons

When filmmaker Ronit Bezalel first arrived in Chicago as a film student in 1994, all she knew about Cabrini Green was its reputation. "I could see Cabrini from the windows of the 'L,' and people told me to avoid it at all costs. I wanted to know why I couldn't go there."

Pipeline developer Dakota Access, the subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer partners has been granted eminent domain powers by the Iowa Utilities Board in order to build the Bakken pipeline, an interstate crude oil pipeline that would cut diagonally across the state for 343 miles. It’s the first interstate pipeline that could be built in the state in 15 years.

Photo Courtesy of Rita Dvorak

In 2015, Iowa had a record number of beach closures due to blue green algae blooms. That, in addition to a lawsuit filed against three northwestern Iowa counties, is bringing increased attention to water quality in the state.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, a choice deemed appropriate by Republicans like Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah. Tim Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa,  says that doesn't mean the Senate will hold a hearing.

"We've had a variety of ways that the Senate has approached that duty over the years. [...] Given the stakes this time, Republicans seem, at least for now, to be willing to say, 'We're just not going to move forward on this.'"

Tom Woodward / Flickr

This year marks the second year in a row that all three of Iowa's regents universities have made an apperance in the NCAA tournament, and for the first time, part of the tournament is being held in Iowa. Rick Brown, veteran sports journalist, says the trio of Iowa coaches has made this type of prominence possible for the state.

University of Iowa student Emily Roberts met a 19 year old who lives in Afghanistan online, through a language learning exchange. The two became fast friends. 

"Sultana and I were talking and I was asking her questions so she could practice her English. I asked her what her perfect day was," Roberts says. "She said, 'well, I would wake up in the morning and study physics all day.' I thought that sounded like a terrible day, but that's when I knew I had to try to get her here." 

Pages