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. 

Ways to Connect

An Iowa historian is running as an independent to unseat six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

Michael Luick-Thrams of Mason City says both major political parties are too married to ideology and can’t do what’s best for the country. 

"We have to have real people with real problems within the halls of government. Be that farmers, or teachers, or labor unionists, or actors, or whoever it needs to be. But someone who’s not there to have a career in politics," says Luick-Thrams.

WIKICOMMONS / Ser Amantio di Nicolao

An Iowa woman who lost her daughter in a car crash allegedly caused by an undocumented Honduran immigrant testified before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Michelle Root says her daughter Sarah was killed on the day she graduated college by Edwin Mejia, who was drag racing while intoxicated.

Root says due to the Obama administration’s immigration policies, Mejia was able to post bail and then possibly fled the country after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency declined to detain him.

Flickr / 401(K) 2012

Though Monday is the deadline to file federal income tax returns, Iowans still have another two weeks before they must hand over their state income taxes. 

The Iowa Department of Revenue advises Iowans to file electronically, and depending on your income and veteran status there is software people can use for free.

"If you are going to get a refund, you will get it much quicker," says IDR spokeswoman Victoria Daniels. "A lot of the software programs, they actually do the calculations for you, and so you are less likely to have mistakes."

WIKICOMMONS / Uyvsdi

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska will likely vote later this summer on changes to its membership policy. The tribe has a reservation that straddles the Iowa-Nebraska border.

Currently to enroll, someone must be at least a quarter Native American, and have somewhere in their ancestry a Winnebago relative. The proposed change would require all new members be at least one-eighth Winnebago and one-eighth of any other tribe.

Photo by John Pemble

A piece of Iowa's past swallowed up a big portion of a front yard in Des Moines early Wednesday morning. A large sinkhole that’s estimated to be more than 30 feet deep, and roughly 20 feet across collapsed a yard on the city's south side. 

State officials say the sinkhole likely formed due to the abandoned coal mines under the city.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland had their much anticipated breakfast meeting Tuesday morning in the Senate Dining Room. The Iowa Republican describes the conversation as “very pleasant," though he still won’t hold confirmation hearings for Garland.

IMAGENS EVANGELICAS

Law enforcement and groups that fight human trafficking in Iowa can now better coordinate their efforts to combat the enslavement of people for the purposes of forced labor or sex work.  Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill Thursday to establish an anti-human trafficking office within the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Social Security Administration

Iowa now is one of seven states, plus the District of Columbia, where people can replace a lost Social Security card online.

Social Security Administration spokesman B. J. Jarrett says in order to serve the public, the SSA needs to take advantage of emerging technologies.

"We want to be able to provide services and provide benefits to folks the way they want to receive them," says Jarrett. "A lot of folks, and not just young people, but a lot of middle aged and older folks, are online now. So we want to meet them where they're at." 

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill Wednesday that allows families, friends and first responders in Iowa to administer an emergency medication that counteracts the effects of an opiod overdose.

People who die from opioid overdoses often do so because the drug causes them to stop breathing, or their hearts to stop pumping. But the medication Naloxone can prevent death by counteracting the depression of the central nervous and repertory systems by ejecting opioid from receptors in the brain.

WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

Conventional wisdom says city-living is expensive. But a new report from an Iowa public policy group finds that's not always the case.

The Iowa Policy Project's 2016 "Cost of Living in Iowa" report finds that even though Iowa cities have higher rents and childcare costs, health insurance and long commutes eat up bigger portions of rural household budgets.

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland are meeting for breakfast soon. But Grassley says the meeting won’t change his mind about not holding confirmation hearings for Garland.

The Iowa Republican heads the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley says he spoke with Garland over the phone yesterday, though the two still have to set a date for their breakfast.

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate says the Iowa Supreme Court should not be determining who can and cannot vote. 

Iowa's constitution says people convicted of infamous crimes are forever prohibited from voting, though some with felony convictions have successfully petitioned to have their rights restored. The state's high court is currently considering if "infamous crimes" means all felonies.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

At midnight this morning, Iowa's Medicaid system transitioned into the hands of three for-profit corporations. Gov. Terry Branstad says the move will contain costs, but critics say privatization leaves many patients without services. 

At the McDonough home in Cedar Rapids, shower day for seven-year-old Carson can be tricky.  That's because he breathes through a tracheal tube.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether it violates the state’s constitution to permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. 

The constitution states anyone who commits an “infamous crime,” forever loses the right to vote, though the text offers little context as to what makes a crime "infamous."

Despite criticism he’s keeping details of his schedule private to avoid protestors, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he hasn’t changed protocol in 36 years.

Iowa’s senior Republican senator heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has been highly criticized for refusing to hold a confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

The senate is currently on recess, so Grassley is back in Iowa meeting with constituents. The senator has not made his full schedule public, which Democrats say is an attempt to elude unhappy constituents. 

W. Ward Reynoldson, the former Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, has died. He was 95 years old.

Reynoldson sat on the state’s high court for 16 years, from 1971 to 1987. For nine of these years, Reynoldson served as chief justice. 

"The Iowa court family is saddened by the passing of former Chief Justice Ward Reynoldson," says current Chief Justice Mark Cady in an emailed statement. "He always projected the highest standards in everything he did."

The Iowa Supreme Court says a man found guilty of attempted murder and robbery won’t get a new trial, even though inaccurate reporting on a local news website was possibly seen by members of the jury. The case required justices to consider how its harder for jurors to avoid information that may prejudice them during a trial in the age of social media. 

Theodore Gathercole was found guilty in 2014. At the trial, jurors were frequently told to ignore print and broadcast accounts of the case. 

The three healthcare companies taking over Iowa’s Medicaid system next week each say they are ready and that their network contains the vast majority of providers who have been serving Iowa’s Medicaid recipients.

"We have a very comprehensive network across the state and across all types of services," says Cheryl Harding of AmeriHealth Caritas.

Network adequacy was one reason the federal government delayed Iowa's implementation of privatized Medicaid. There were concerns that not enough providers had agreed to continue serving Medicaid recipients. 

FLICKR / JEFF KUBINA

Workers at an Iowa slaughterhouse scored a victory for hourly employees at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

Workers from the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Storm Lake were awarded $2.9 million in a 2011 class action lawsuit, in which they alleged Tyson underpaid them for the time it takes to put on and take off protective clothing required to do their jobs.

Flickr / Elaine Vigneault

Two mental health workers from Ankeny have been in Louisiana since Thursday, helping people affected by severe flooding in the region. Carolyn Newkirk and her husband Richard are among the hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers who have been deployed to the southern U.S..

The flooding has forced thousands to evacuate. Newkirk says some people won’t be able to return home. 

Flickr / PROWindRanch

Monday marks the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week. And on Wednesday the National Weather Service will hold a statewide tornado drill between 10 and 11 am, provided there is no actual severe weather taking place.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has closed a potential loophole that would have made it significantly easier for government officials to deliberate in private. In a four-to-three ruling, the high court says that government officials can’t skirt Iowa’s open meetings law by deliberating public policy through an agent.

Flickr / Steven Brewer

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected this morning to release a decision that could severely weaken Iowa’s open meetings law. The justices must decide if sending messages through an employee, the Warren County Board of Supervisors were still holding a "meeting," as defined under Iowa code.  

What happened?

In March 2014, the Warren County Board of Supervisors laid off 12 county employees.

Flickr / Ken Lund

Friday morning, the Iowa Supreme Court is expected to release a decision that could dramatically weaken Iowa’s open meeting’s law.

Two years ago the Warren County Board of Supervisors decided to lay off 12 county employees.

The three-member panel did not deliberate in person or through email. Rather they reached their unanimous decision by having the county administrator relay messages among the three board members. 

By communicating this way, the board supervisors hoped to skirt the state’s open meeting’s law.

FLICKR / JENNIFER MORROW

Medicaid officials from the Iowa Department of Human Services shared with state senators on Wednesday how the department plans to make sure Medicaid recipients are safe and receive necessary services, once the Iowa's Medicaid system is privatized on April 1.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a bill Wednesday that prevents individual states from requiring food to have GMO labeling. Currently only Vermont has such a law. It’s slated to go into effect in July.

"I think common sense tells you that we got to have one standard for all 50 states," says U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. "Fifty different state laws with 50 different labeling requirements, would be practically impossible for any food processor." 

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Advocates for aging Iowans are asking the state legislature to reconsider its support for a bill that mandates hospitals provide instruction of medical tasks to caregivers, before a patient is discharged. 

The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act (Care) failed to meet a critical deadline last week, so the future of the legislation looks dim. Advocates are stilling pushing for lawmakers' support, saying that caregiver training is particularly important because the majority of care provided to older Iowans is not performed by trained professionals, but by friends and family.

Flickr / mcfarlandmo

Today marks the beginning of “Sunshine Week", an observation of the public’s right to access information. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council is reminding officials that a higher level of transparency is part of the territory that comes with holding elected office.

A group of 360 legal scholars from across the country says Iowa’s U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and other Senate Republicans are exceeding their constitutional authority by refusing to agree to Supreme Court confirmation hearings. A letter from the scholars was organized by a liberal-leaning legal advocacy group, called the Alliance for Justice. 

Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will not consider any Obama nominee, regardless of his or her qualifications. 

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

In Iowa, once you commit a felony, you forever lose the right to vote.

This makes Iowa one of the three most restrictive states when it comes to felon voting. But the Iowa ACLU says the state's constitution does allow felons to vote, and will argue that later this month at the state Supreme Court.

When he was 24, Justin McCarthy went to federal prison for 15 months on charges related to illegal firearms and marijuana possession. This wasn’t McCarthy’s first run-in with the law, but prison was a turning point.

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