Joyce Russell

Correspondent

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

A statehouse committee spent the day Tuesday hearing about what’s being called a massive change in how health care in Iowa is delivered to the poor and disabled. 

Private companies are scheduled to take over management of the state-federal health care program known as Medicaid which serves more than 560-thousand Iowans.  

Critics worry about the effect on the state’s most vulnerable populations.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says he will not intervene in the controversial Bakken Pipeline project which is under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.  

And he is downplaying landowners concerns.    

Dakota Access wants to crisscross the state with a pipeline to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   

Some landowners have not granted permission.    But Branstad argues the company won’t be taking their land.

Joyce Russell/IPR

There was emotional testimony at the statehouse today where the governor’s committee on racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system was completing its work.   

The NAACP and others say the group’s recommendations do not go far enough to address the problem of disproportionate numbers of blacks in Iowa prisons.  

With a limited mandate, the committee recommends making jury pools more inclusive, keeping juvenile court records private, expanding drug courts, and cutting prison phone call costs.  

Photo by John Pemble

The Iowa Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of a complainant in a sexual harassment case.  

The case alleges violations of Iowa’s Civil Rights statute by Iowa Senate Republicans.

Senate Republicans fired Kristen Anderson from her job as communications director in May of 2013 alleging poor job performance.   Anderson claimed she was fired for reporting sexual harassment on the job. 

John Pemble/IPR

A Republican state lawmaker has called a hearing on what he calls obscene material presented at the Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth.   

The House Oversight Committee will examine whether tax dollars were inappropriately spent.

There’ve been complaints from lawmakers in the past about the conference which is sponsored by Iowa Safe Schools to address bullying and other issues of interest to LGBTQ youth. 

Governor Branstad has announced a new Wrongful Conviction Division in the Office of State Public Defender.  

Officials will conduct DNA analysis for many as 100 inmates who may have been convicted on what’s now called “junk science.” 

The state will work with an organization known as the Innocence Project, which has helped exonerate inmates in more than 300 cases on the basis of DNA evidence.     

State officials will review Iowa cases in which hair analysis played a major role in convictions.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

After some upheaval last week, the race for the Democratic nomination for President has mostly shaken down to a two-person contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.   And in Des Moines on Saturday, their supporters were among the thousands of activists gathered for the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

College student Katya Wendt came down from Minnesota with the group Saint Olaf for Bernie Sanders.   She has her talking points down.

Christopher Hawkins/flickr

A federal prosecutor for Iowa’s Northern Judicial District briefed an advisory group in Des Moines today on the growing problem of heroin addiction, especially in eastern Iowa.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham addressed the Iowa Drug Policy Advisory Council.    

Chatham prosecutes drug crimes, including dozens of heroin cases which have grown as users move from prescription meds to heroin.     

He says says heroin on the streets is getting more and more potent.

Ted Murphy/flickr

A state lawmaker from Cedar Rapids today grilled the director of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission over a proposed license for a smoke-free casino in their city.  

The commission denied Cedar Rapids a gaming license in 2014, citing a saturated market for casinos.  

The city is arguing that a smoke-free casino would fill an unmet need, since smoking is allowed in other gambling houses, an exemption to Iowa’s law banning smoking in public places. 

Andy Arthur/flicker

Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources report a problem with enforcement of Iowa's 35-year old bottle bill. 

Some retailers are turning consumers away when they bring their bottles and cans back for a refund. 

Retailers sometimes contract with redemption centers to take back the containers. But officials say centers are cutting back their hours to make ends meet. They say their one-cent handling fee hasn't been raised since the bottle bill passed.

That throws the responsibility back to retailers. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Several Republican candidates for president are vying for the votes of Christian conservatives who make up a significant percentage of Republican caucusgoers.    There’s a subset of the evangelical vote that’s especially coveted, and that’s homeschoolers.  

If you attract a homeschool parent to your side you may get the whole family to knock on doors and put up yard signs.  

On a recent Saturday, with beautiful fall weather outside, Kaylee Morris was inside staffing the phone bank at the Ted Cruz for President campaign headquarters in Urbandale

Joyce Russell/IPR

A double-wall fence across the entire southern U.S. border would work to keep immigrants out, and it could be built within one year of a new administration in Washington.  

That’s from Arkansas Governor and now GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, addressing a crowd of about a hundred people at the Westside Breakfast Club at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale.  

Huckabee would model the fence on a double wall in San Diego that reduced the apprehension of immigrants from Tijuana, Mexico. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

There was emotional testimony today before a legislative committee over a new tax break for Iowa manufacturers which Democrats say the legislature should have signed off on.   

The Branstad administration proposes a sales tax exemption on more of the supplies manufacturers purchase, from drill bits to lubricants and coolants, and from saw blades to air filters and hydraulic fluids. 

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A top Iowa Republican has harsh words for his party’s representatives in the U.S. House, where the GOP has so far been unable to agree on a new House Speaker to replace the outgoing John Boehner.

Opposition from a cadre of conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus helped lead Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to withdraw from the race for the top post.

Former Iowa Republican party chair Matt Strawn says it looks like Republicans don’t know how to govern.

Gage Skidmore/flickr

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants is meeting with opposition in the Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee that Grassley chairs in the U.S. Senate.   

As proposed by Grassley, the bill would levy a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for felons who are deported and then return to the country. 

 Grassley says mandatory minimums have become controversial.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Major Iowa GOP donor Bruce Rastetter today stood alongside Chris Christie and announced he’s endorsing the New Jersey Governor for the Republican nomination for president.     

Rastetter and other influential Iowans are backing the man they tried to convince to run in the last presidential election. 

Flanked by other political heavy hitters, Rastetter announced the endorsements any candidate would envy. 

The group wasn’t happy with the Republican field four years ago, so they boarded Rastetter’s plane and flew to Christie’s home turf.

Joyce Russell/IPR

About 150 people turned out in Alden in Hardin County yesterday to hear New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, who’s on a two-day campaign swing through the state.  

Christie leveled hard-hitting criticism at the Obama administration, particularly in foreign policy.  

Christie says the president focused on climate change more than the trouble spots around the world.

Russell/IPR

About 300 people turned out in Newton Saturday night to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is on a two-day weekend campaign swing through the state.   Sanders drew cheers with his populist message, including criticizing income inequality.  

Elizabeth Gaffney, a high school teacher from Baxter, has already heard Bernie Sanders, once in Ames, and again on the soapbox at the State Fair.  

She is new to Democratic politics.         

 “I used to be a Republican,” Gaffney says.  “Bernie’s made me a convert.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

An Ames minister will receive the 2013 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award for his 30-year  career fighting hunger in Iowa and around the world.   

In a ceremony next month, officials with the World Food Prize will honor Rev. Russ Melby who organized Church World Service Hunger Walks in Iowa communities to benefit Iowa food banks, as well as hunger relief abroad.    

Rev. Melby came to Iowa in 1984 and hoped to organize food walks in all 99 counties within five years.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum today appeared before the Westside Conservative Breakfast club in Urbandale where he staked out one of the most conservative positions on immigration in the Republican race for president.    

Santorum wants to limit not just illegal immigration but legal entry into the country.    

Santorum says too many people are coming here legally and competing for American jobs.

Hades 2K/flickr

Some Iowa consumers have gone without landline phone service for weeks at a time this summer, and the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate is requesting proceedings against the CenturyLink phone company. 

Between August 24 and September 11th, the office received eight complaints of repair delays ranging from ten days to, in one case, more than a month.  

Consumer Advocate Mark Schuling has asked the Iowa Utilities board to consolidate the cases to speed things up.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Eight Republican candidates for President were in Des Moines last night, vying for the votes of Christian conservatives at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual fall banquet. 

Some evangelicals say it’s hard to win the Iowa caucuses without their support but so far they have not coalesced behind a single candidate.  

Some have chosen sides.  Jeff Newell of Granger waved a sign for Texas Senator Ted Cruz as hundreds of activists filed in to the Knapp center at the fairgrounds.  

“I think Christians are getting a raw deal,” Newell says.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

The husband of a Burlington woman who was shot and killed by a Burlington police officer appeared before a state board today, arguing for the release of a video recording and other information in the case.  

In January, Officer Jesse Hill answered a domestic disturbance call and shot and killed 34-year old Autumn Steele after the family’s dog attacked him. 

Steele’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper petitioned the Iowa Public Information board hoping to be able to hear 911 recordings and view body cam video.  

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is questioning an Obama administration proposal to admit thousands of Middle Eastern refugees into the U.S., as the migrant crisis continues in Europe. 

Tens of thousands of migrants have fled Syria, Iraq, and other countries, creating havoc as European countries struggle to accommodate them.

 The U.S. State Department proposal would lift the overall cap for immigration, including admitting 10-thousand refugees from war-torn Syria. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

President Barack Obama Monday spent more than an hour in conversation with students, teachers and parents at North High School in Des Moines, talking about how to make college more affordable.

The president urged students and their parents to do everything they can to win some of the 150 billion dollars in annual federal student aid each year to avoid big debt on graduation, and to use new federal tools to rank schools for quality and affordability. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has added her voice to criticism of GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s latest controversial statements. 

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Trump viewed Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on camera and remarked, “Look at that face.   Would anyone vote for that?” 

Reynolds says that’s not acceptable.

“I don’t find it acceptable in politics,” Reynolds says.  “I don’t find it acceptable in business.  I don’t find it acceptable anywhere.”  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Four Republican candidates for President braved the raucous tailgating crowd yesterday in Ames ahead of the annual Cyclone Hawkeye football game.   Each candidate drew curious onlookers as they made their way across the tailgating scene.    Joyce Russell brings us some of the sounds of the day from the candidates who attended the tailgate, to football fans who were more interested in pigskin that politics.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is minimizing complaints about the private firms selected to manage Iowa’s more than four billion dollar Medicaid program that provides health care for Iowa’s poor and disabled.  

A Des Moines Register investigation shows fraud and mismanagement by the firms in other states.       

The state is scheduled to turn over management of the giant program to the four companies starting in January.    But three firms that didn’t win the contracts are requesting a review of the bidding process, which they call haphazard.  

Joyce Russell/IPR file

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says he is not joining the calls for President Obama to cancel an upcoming state visit by the President of China.  Republican Presidential candidates Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina are among those saying Obama should cancel Xi Jinping’s state visit next month because of what they call China’s efforts to undermine U.S. interests.  On Friday, Branstad said President Xi is an old friend and that relationship has been good for Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The NAACP held a day-long symposium Friday on the overrepresentation of African-Americans in Iowa prisons.   

The symposium addressed a wide range of issues, from racial profiling to the underrepresentation of minorities on Iowa juries.  

The NAACP cites statistics showing the overrepresentation of minorities in corrections is worse in Iowa than in any other state, in particular for drug offenses.  

Arnold Woods with the Des Moines NAACP says it’s not an abstract topic for blacks.

Pages