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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FLICKR / WILLIAM PATRICK BUTLER

As Iowa gears up for transitioning its Medicaid system into private management by three for-profit companies, lawmakers are grappling with how many ombudsmen are needed to give recipients assistance and objective information.

A new poll suggests Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are in a statistical dead heat, with five days remaining before the Iowa Caucuses. 

Wednesday's Quinnipiac poll has the Vermont Senator favored by 49 percent of likely Democratic caucus participants surveyed, and the former Secretary of State favored by 45 percent. This four-point spread is within the margin of error. 

With less than a week before the Iowa Caucuses, it seems to be a two-man race in the GOP field. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows a statical dead heat between real-estate mogul Donald Trump with 31-percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 29-percent. 

Flickr / Jennifer Morrow

With six weeks to go before Iowa’s Medicaid program is tentatively scheduled to become privately managed, Medicaid Director Mikki Stier says she's "very confident" Iowa will be ready. The federal government delayed the state's plans to privatize Medicaid on New Year's Day, despite Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa's Department of Human Services insisting the state was ready to make the switch.  

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says though many of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders's ideas sound good in theory, "In theory isn't enough.  A president has to deal in reality."

While speaking to a crowd of roughly 600 people at Simpson College in Indianola on Thursday, Clinton said she wants to build on President Obama’s work with the Affordable Care Act to get more Americans healthcare coverage. In contrast, Clinton says Sanders' approach would create gridlock since he wants, "...to start over from scratch with a whole new system." 

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

Iowa’s Agriculture Secretary says his department needs more money to prevent future outbreaks of avian influenza and other livestock diseases. A request for an additional $500,000 in funding was not in the governor’s budget that was released last week, so Sec. Bill Northey reiterated his request to the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. 

The funding would go towards training and equipment. Also, the department says it wants to hire a veterinarian and program coordinator to monitor animal diseases in the state. 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump voiced their support for ethanol at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on Tuesday.

The candidates took aim the EPA for lowering the mandated amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply below targets set by congress in 2007. Iowa is the nation's leading producer of the renewable fuel, which in the U.S. is primarily made with corn. 

WIKICOMMONS / Bobak Ha'Eri

Sioux City municipal employees are at work Monday, but next year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day will be a paid holiday. A new contract negotiated by AFSCME for 400 city staff takes effect in 2017, and one provision included the civil rights leader's birthday. 

Sioux City's NAACP chapter says its been raising the issue of the federal holiday not being a city holiday for decades. 

Dick DeMarsico / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Two Iowa museums are offering special programming on Martin Luther King Day today, that examines the country's complicated history with race.

The African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids is giving a presentation on Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. It's also screening a documentary on the Children’s March, a protest which was part of the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights campaign. 

FLICKR / WILLIAM PATRICK BUTLER

About 20 lawyers representing six healthcare companies and the state of Iowa crowded into a small Polk County courtroom Thursday.

All want Judge Robert Blink to issue or reject various stays, or orders, relating to the upcoming privatization of Iowa's $4.2 billion Medicaid system. All also argued a ruling in their favor prioritizes the healthcare of Iowa's 560,000 Medicaid recipients. 

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.

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