Iowa Politics

John Pemble / IPR

On this show, representative Monica Kurth from Davenport took her oath of office on Monday.  She won a special election on January 31st.  Now the Iowa House is full and her first day was a long one.  The House debated a K-12 education spending bill, as well as a new rule banning the use of visual aids, during a debate without approval from the Speaker of the House.

John Pemble / IPR

Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Governor Terry Branstad presented two major proclamations during his Condition of the State speech. One, budget reductions for this fiscal year, which the House and Senate just delivered.

Second, redirecting family planning money that would not include funding organizations that perform abortions.  Last Thursday, the Senate passed a bill accomplishing this goal.  But it was a heated debate, often involving Senate Rule Nine.

John Pemble / IPR

With 29 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate, the majority party is winning everything put to a vote, including the most anticipated legislation of this session, Senate File 130. It’s the budget bill cutting $118 million from the current fiscal year ending June 30th. On this show, we’ll hear some of the debate. The bill moves to the House next week where it is expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Branstad.

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.”

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.)

John Pemble / IPR

This new podcast from Iowa Public Radio highlights the activity at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session.

Our first week begins with the opening of the 87th General Assembly, where Republicans control the Senate, House, and the governor’s office.  In the first half hour of the session, outgoing Senate President, Democrat Pam Jochum hands Republican Senator Jack Whitver the gavel. Republican priorities this year include changing collective bargaining, implementing voter ID, and defunding Planned Parenthood.  

Emily Woodbury

It’s been a long election season here in Iowa, and as the dust begins to settle, there's one thing left to do: grab a pint and debrief with fellow Iowans.

On this special edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer and Clay Masters host post-election conversations in front of live audiences in Marion and Des Moines.

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.

No more putting it off! Here's a study method to help you prepare: candidate arithmetic.  It's a quick, simple way to get to the facts. 

Join us weekly until the election. 

Episode 2:

John Pemble

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, as the senator faces an election for what could be his seventh term in the Senate.

This week, Congress overwhelmingly rejected President Obama's veto of legislation allowing relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

John Pemble

On this special edition of River to River, presented in conjunction with The Gazette, Ben Kieffer and co-host Jennifer Hemmingsen discuss the latest news from the campaign trail with panelists: Gazette political & investigative reporter James Lynch, along with Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman.

Pat Blank/IPR

The consistently high rate of suicide in the military has Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst on a mission to better address mental health care through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Ernst, Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Dave Loebsack have asked for an Inspector General’s investigation into the death last month of U.S. Marine Corps veteran Brandon Ketchum of Davenport.  Ernst says Ketchum had reportedly been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, but was turned away when he asked to be admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Pat Blank/IPR

Two candidates who were in the 2014 Democratic primary for the nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District are giving it another shot. Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon will face off in the June 7th primary. 

Pat Murphy of Dubuque served 12 terms in the Iowa House and ended his legislative career while he was Speaker of the House to run for Congress. He won the Democratic nomination in the 2014 U.S. Congressional race in a five-way primary. Murphy then lost to Republican Rod Blum in the general election.

John Pemble / IPR

As Iowa lawmakers dash to get bills out of committee in either the House or Senate, IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell has her eye on a few big questions this week: 

1. Can medical marijuana backers get a bill out of committee?

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa legislature is back in session today. Leaders are in sharp division over the state budget, and questions about education funding are fueling disagreements. The Senate wants a four percent increase, and the House wants a two percent increase. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Senate President Pam Jocum (D) from Dubuque and Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl  (R) from Missouri Valley about lawmakers' priorities for the 2016 session. 

John Pemble

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a major initiative this week – a plan to increase funding for water quality. 

The governor teamed up with former Democratic governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a proposal that would extend the one-cent sales tax currently spent on school infrastructure. While the plan would extend the sales tax, most of the inflationary growth would be diverted to finance water quality projects. Critics say that money should go only to education infrastructure.

John Pemble

Since 1969, Iowa’s governors have averaged a decade in office each, significantly longer than governors of other states.

"Iowans, for a number of reasons, seem to like their governors as long as they are doing certain things," says Chris Larimer of the political science department at the University of Northern Iowa. “Accessibility and visibility – there is an expectation among Iowans that you need to be out there on a regular basis.” 

IowaPolitics.com

Now that he’s been recognized as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, Governor Branstad says he has not decided whether to run for a seventh term in 2018.   

Branstad has made clear he’s grooming Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to become the state’s first female governor.     

However, he says he won’t decide until election year, following the lead of Governor Ray back in 1982.

“He was very popular and I was his third lieutenant governor,” Branstad says.  “He didn’t make the decision until February of the election year not to seek reelection.”

Tony Alter / Flickr

This week marks Paul Ryan's first week  as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa. They share their predictions of how Ryan will fare in House leadership.

"You're going to end up with in-fighting among Republicans on how to proceed in the face of a veto threat from President Obama," says Hassell. "These structural differences and problems haven't gone away."

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Iowa Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen says will step down from his leadership position in January, and serve his last year in the state assembly as a rank-and-file member. The Hiawatha Republican says he will not seek a seventh term .

Paulsen says he believes it’s "just the right time" for him personally to resign from the speakership. And also he says it’s important to set up the next speaker for success.

Clay Masters / IPR

Ten Republican Presidential candidates vied for the evangelical vote Saturday in Ames at a forum sponsored by the leading Christian conservative group the Family Leader.

Nearly three thousand people showed up, including 250 pastors.    So far, no one has the important religious right vote sewn up.

There was a lot of agreement on display, against abortion and same-sex marriage, for religious liberty, and for a strong alliance with Israel. 

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last year.  

Democratic lawmakers and a public employee union leader sued, claiming the governor exceeded his authority by closing the home after the legislature appropriated money to run it.    

The court ruled the case is moot since no money was appropriated to reopen the home.  

John Pemble

What do honey bees, baseball fields and coin-operated laundries have in common? This year, their owners are being considered as possible recipients of new state tax breaks.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer is joined by lawmakers and IPR correspondent Joyce Russell to discuss various tax bills being debated at the capitol.

Senator Joe Bolkom, a Democrat from Iowa City and Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, also talk about what could be done with any state budget surplus, including giving it back to taxpayers.

Photo by John Pemble

Having served from 1959-1995, 95-year-old Neal Smith is the longest serving Iowan in the United States House of Representatives.

John Pemble

Iowa has a law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers, but this law is deemed unconstitutional by both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts.

A proposal moving through Iowa’s legislature would modify the state’s current law mandating life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. The legislation gives judges three sentencing options. One of those options is still life in prison without parole.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The deadline for individual school districts to publish their budgets is April 5th, but in light of indecision at the statehouse, that's proving difficult.

That’s pushed one superintendent, Art Tate of Davenport Community Schools, to drastic measures: openly defying state law.

"I'm trying to improve the graduation rate and reduce the suspension rate and pull the achievement gap together, and I'm having to, every year, reduce. I just came to the point I said, 'I can't do that anymore. I won't do that anymore. It's immoral.'"

Katherine Perkins / Iowa Public Radio

Summer Program Director at the Des Moines YMCA Camp Alex Kretzinger says its difficult to develop schedules for summer camp not knowing when school will start next fall.

John Pemble

So-called conversion therapy seeks to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian youth.

401(K)2012 / flickr

Political action committees (PACs) for presidential hopefuls are focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire - with some groups channeling up to 95% of their political donations to local politicians in the two states.

John Pemble / IPR

Talks about an increase of ten cents a gallon to the state’s gas tax have really been the dominant topic to come out the statehouse this session.  IPR's Clay Masters speaks with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the gas tax and other issues being discussed at the statehouse. 

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