Joyce Russell


Joyce Russell is a correspondent based at the Iowa Statehouse. Joyce has been covering the Iowa Statehouse since shortly after joining the news staff at WOI Radio in 1988. Her earlier broadcasting experience included news reporting at commercial stations in Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joyce’s reports can be heard on National Public Radio and American Public Media programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace.  She covered the last six Iowa caucus campaigns and interviewed numerous candidates for president, including some who went on to attain the highest office in the land.   

Joyce  has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and  a master’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma.   

Joyce’s favorite public radio program is Fresh Air.

Ways To Connect

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Public Information Board which is charged with enforcing Iowa’s open records law yesterday voted to continue looking into a fatal police shooting in Burlington earlier this year.    The Board must decide whether the public has the right to see a police report on the shooting and other materials  including 911 calls and a dash cam video.  

In January, Officer Jesse Hill responded to a fight between 34-year-old Autumn Steele and her husband.   Steele’s dog bit the officer, and Hill fired his gun twice, killing Ms. Steele.  

Iowa Department of Transportation

Every year across the country children die of heatstroke after being left in locked vehicles. The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here.  

This week, the electronic billboard on Iowa interstates includes the slogan, “Where’s Baby?  Look Before you Lock.”      

The campaign comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King today showed up on the Washington Post’s list of questionable tweets by members of Congress. But the project that made his activity public was shut down after Twitter withdrew its permission.  

Twitter gave the Sunlight Foundation access to deleted tweets by members of Congress and King’s activity caught some attention. The congressman retweeted a message from someone getting on the subway.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio drew an early-morning crowd at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, a popular stop for candidates.    

More than 200 turned out for breakfast at the Machine Shed Restaurant to hear the 44-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who’s on a three-day tour of the state.

Rubio’s stump speech included strengthening the economy, reforming higher education, and asserting American leadership abroad. Rubio promised to reform entitlement programs and confront aggression abroad in Russia, China and the Middle East.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representative of Iowa industries which emit more than 100 tons of material into the atmosphere each year were at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Bureau today.

They’re weighing in on plans to raise their fees to better enforce the Federal  Clean Air Act. 

The DNR proposes a new $24,000 application fee for operating permits.   Also companies would pay more each year per ton of emissions.   

Bureau  Chief Catherine Fitzsimmons says with the new money, the DNR can hire more staff.  


Governor Branstad Thursday vetoed millions of dollars in state spending the legislature approved last month, saying some of the appropriations are unsustainable. 

He trimmed back the more than seven billion dollar state budget for the fiscal year that started this week. 

The vetoes cut education spending for K-12 schools, community colleges, and the Regents Universities.  

Education advocates call the K-12 cuts shameful.   Regents President Bruce Rastetter says they’ll begin considering what tuition levels should be next spring. 

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad is hearing from county attorneys around the state, as he debates whether to sign a last-minute item in a catch-all spending bill.  

The provision would privatize the collection of court fines and fees to bring in an estimated $12 million more next year.    

The Judicial Branch has pushed to improve the collection of delinquent fines.  The bill would bypass the state’s Central Collection Unit and assign the work to a private debt collector.   


An immigrant rights group has polled likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers to get their views on immigration.   The group hopes to use the results to influence the Republican race for President. 

The Partnership for a New American Economy commissioned the poll of 400 likely GOP caucus-goers.  

Seventy-seven percent support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and fewer than one in five favor deportation.   

Republican strategist John Stineman says the survey shows a pro-reform candidate can win in Iowa. 


A handful of new laws go into effect July 1 as a result of the 2015 legislative session. Among those that will be most noticeable for the general public – Iowans will be able to buy growlers full of craft beers brewed in Iowa anywhere that has a class "C" alcohol license. That includes grocery stores and gas stations, for example. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says last week’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not have a big impact in Iowa, since same-sex marriage has been well-established in the state since 2009.  

The governor today commented on the fact that county officials in other states may try to deny licenses to same-sex couples in protest.   

Branstad says he’s not aware of any way that could happen here.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Ohio Governor John Kasich, the latest Republican to say he’s interested in running for his party’s nomination for president, attracted a crowd of about 200 people in Des Moines today.   

During a forum at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Kasich distinguished himself from the rest of the field.  He criticized the pro-ethanol renewable fuel standard, and called for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. 

Kasich says the Republican Party is his vehicle, not his master.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday went to a John Deere dealership in Perry to sign a bill to facilitate more broadband in Iowa.     

It’s dubbed the Connect Acre Bill, and Branstad says agriculture is just one business that will benefit from more high-speed internet access.   

The bill includes property tax breaks for communications companies to build out broadband to underserved areas, but not the five million dollars in grants the governor asked for. 

Photo by John Pemble

It appears that Governor Branstad is not ruling out an appeal of Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for continued use of so-called telemed abortions.  

The court ruled that the Iowa Board of Medicine placed an unconstitutional burden on women when it banned the administration of abortion-inducing drugs without a doctor in the room. 

Under the procedure, a doctor uses two-way telecommunication to oversee a patient taking an abortion-inducing drug. Governor Branstad disagrees with the ruling.

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa’s two Republican U.S. Senators Tuesday split their votes on a measure to strengthen the U.S. ban on torturing detainees.  

Senator Chuck Grassley voted yes on an amendment to bolster current law and give the Red Cross access to all detainees.   Senator Joni Ernest was among 21 Senators voting no.

“It is not wise to let our enemies known what our techniques are--that allows them to train, resist, and defeat it," Ernst said.

She says the president should be able to authorize torture if there’s a potential threat against Americans. 

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says new rules to combat sexual assault in the military are working.    And she says more time is needed before taking more difficult steps to address the problem.  

Ernst voted Tuesday against taking the commanding officer out of the decision to prosecute offenders.   

Ernst says she doesn’t want to tie the hands of a commanding officer who may want to prosecute an offender.    

She says a December survey shows military personnel are expressing more trust in their commanding officers.

Joyce Russell/IPR

By a vote of seven to two, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission Tuesday sided with developers over environmentalists and homeowners when it comes to putting back topsoil after new homes and businesses go up.     

The new rules will no longer require at least four inches of topsoil.     

Federal rules require restoration of topsoil to prevent stormwater runoff, but developers say Iowa’s standard is too strict.      

Photo by John Pemble

Governor Branstad today offered sympathy to the family of an Iowa Children’s Museum employee who was shot and killed inside the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville on Friday.   

Andrea Farrington, 20, of Cedar Rapids had reportedly complained that the suspect in the shooting had been watching her and leaving notes on her car. Governor Branstad is not ruling out new legislation on stalking as a result of the shooting.

Photo by John Pemble/IPR

Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wrapped up a three day campaign swing through Iowa Sunday, and he had harsh words for Hillary Clinton on the issue of international trade.  

At a state fairgrounds rally, Clinton said she can’t say whether she supports a bill in Congress giving the President so-called fast track trade authority to facilitate a Pacific trade deal.  

Clinton says she needs to see what’s really in the bill.

Spring Dew/flickr

Utility employees from out-of-state who come in and save the day when there’s a major power outage would get some help at tax-filing time, under a bill state lawmakers have approved and sent to the governor. 

If Gov. Branstad signs the bill, employees who, for example, come to Iowa from Wisconsin would no longer have Iowa taxes withheld no matter how much money they earn here. 

Victoria Danielson at the Iowa Department of Revenue says the change will streamline tax-filing for the workers.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Hillary Clinton officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president this weekend.   On Sunday she wrapped up a two-day organizing tour of Iowa.     An army of volunteers, clipboards in hand, began the hard work of lining up Democrats to come out and caucus for Clinton in February.   

Doors were scheduled to open at 10:30 in the morning for an event at the Elwell Center at the state fairgrounds. Middle school English teacher Mike Sorenson from Fredericksburg was standing in line well before that on a cloudy humid day.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Utilities Board has issued a schedule of deadlines for the controversial Bakken crude oil pipeline which would criss-cross the state from northwest to southeast.   

The schedule indicates the board will rule on the Dakota Access application by December or January.      

Dakota Access is a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer.The pipeline would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.  

John Pemble / IPR

State lawmakers have gone home for the legislative session. It was another year of Republicans controlling the Iowa House and Democrats leading the Iowa Senate. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checks in with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell one last time about the lengthy legislative session. 

Clay Masters/IPR

Seven candidates and one potential candidate for the Republican nomination for president were on hand at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone on Saturday for a fundraiser hosted by Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst.  

The expo grounds are also this year’s site for the Iowa GOP’s traditional cattle call for candidates, the Iowa Straw Poll.   

Ben Barringer, a software engineer, drove down to Boone from Lake Mills in far north Iowa with a couple of potential favorite candidates in mind

“I’m very excited for Ted Cruz and Scott Walker,” Barringer says.   

Photo by John Pemble

Budget disputes prevailed to the very end, as the Iowa legislature today wrapped up its 2015 legislative session.    It now remains to be seen if the governor signs all of the roughly seven-point-three billion dollars in spending approved in the waning days.  

It was the  145th day of what was supposed to be a 110 day session.     

As the Senate put its finishing touches on education funding,    Ames Democrat Herman Quirmbach got in one last complaint.

“This bill is a band aid on a festering sore in the area of education,” Quirmbach says.


It's clear that the sale of so-called farm-raised deer will be taxed under a bill that passed in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.   Debate was marked by passionate input from a leading hunting advocate in the Iowa Senate. 

Up to now, some farmers had been considering the sales to be tax-exempt in the manner of the sales of other livestock such as hogs or cattle.

Des Moines Democrat Dick Dearden says deer which are raised on farms to be sold to preserves are not raised for meet, as other farm animals are.     They’re raised for their antlers.

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa House and Senate have reached a compromise on Governor Branstad’s proposal to encourage more broadband in the state, one of his top priorities for two years in a row.  

It’s one of several pieces that are falling into place as lawmakers strive toward adjournment.  

A House-passed bill offered property tax abatements for communications companies that expand broadband into underserved areas.   But Senate Democrats questioned   whether more Iowans would actually be served.


A fight by Iowa cities over where communications  companies can erect cellphone towers has been resolved at the statehouse.  

That eliminates one more roadblock as lawmakers slog toward adjournment of the 2015 session.  

Des Moines Democrat Janet Peterson says interested parties hammered out an agreement on how much say-so cities can have.

‘We had a number of concessions where the League of Cities came together,” Peterson.   “They said they thought they could live with the changes that are being made.”

John Pemble/IPR

After weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the Iowa House and Senate last night defied the governor, and voted to have the state continue to operate the Mental Health Institute at Mount Pleasant.  

A spokesman for Governor Branstad says he will carefully review the bill.

By a comfortable margin in the Senate, and a narrow margin in the House, a Health and Human Services budget was approved to hire back laid-off workers at Mount Pleasant and restore mental health services.   Clarinda will stay open through December with a plan to privatize services after that.  

Angelo Mercado/flickr

With some opposition, the Iowa Senate today approved a resolution that will allow the Meskwaki settlement near Tama to assume jurisdiction for criminal justice.

Tama County oversees law enforcement and prosecutions at the settlement.  

The resolution asks the federal government to repeal a 1948 law giving the state of Iowa oversight of offenses by Meskwakis against Meskwakis.  

State Center Democrat Steve Sodders says tribal leaders  have been asking for this for a long time.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa House and Senate leaders are expressing optimism that a proposed budget for higher education will be enough to fund a tuition freeze at the Regents universities for the third year in a row.   But a Regents spokesman declined to comment on the effect on university budgets until full details are released. 

 Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal says a tentative budget deal worked out last week includes a one-point-two-five percent increase for the Regents schools.