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

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.

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted 3-0 to approve an oil pipeline across the state. Dakota Access had sought permission for the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.  The line will run for nearly 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in the northwest corner, and exiting in the southeast.

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he's not harming the justice system by refusing to hold hearings for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. 

Grassley says the public should decide the next justice when they vote for president in November. Democrats call this blatant partisanship. 

A group of public health, health insurance, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations has released a set recommendations to improve overall community health in the Greater Des Moines area.

The 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment makes recommendations in several areas, including expanding healthcare access, especially mental health services. It also calls for a greater focus on both education and immigrant services.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

A bill supporters say makes it harder for managed care companies to prioritize profits over the healthcare of Medicaid recipients passed the Iowa Senate Wednesday. Every Senate Democrat and six Republicans voted for the legislation. 

Medicaid enters privatized management next month, and critics of the transition are eager to install safeguards. The bill, penned by the Senate's Human Resources Committee, includes provisions for consumer protections, making sure networks have enough providers, methods to determine reimbursement rates, and outcome expectations. 

Paul Townsend/Flickr

A group of Iowa’s business leaders reports a slowdown in the number of people they expect to hire. The decline in the Iowa Business Council's latest report is likely a result of global economic forces driving down exports.

The survey finds that 30 percent of the group’s CEOs and chairmen say they’ll likely hire in the next six months. That’s down from 45 percent in the group’s December survey.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Iowa no longer has the only statewide telemedicine abortion network in the country. Today, Maine Family Planning has started providing the service at 16 of its clinics. 

"It was helpful for us to be able to look at another very rural state, not necessary a completely blue state, another state we could relate to and say this can be done," says Maine Family Planning's Jennifer Thibodeau. "It was just inspiring to see another state that we really felt similar to, be able to expand access at a time when other states are really struggling to keep doors open."

Dozens of Iowans begged members of the Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee Wednesday to make sure the state provides extensive oversight of the three healthcare management companies that will soon manage Iowa’s Medicaid system. The federal government says privatization can begin April 1. 

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

A bill aimed at preventing racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement passed a State Senate subcommittee on Wednesday. Key components of the NAACP-penned legislation include training, a community-policing advisory board, and mechanisms for tracking officer interactions in hopes of identifying racially motivated stops.

Healthcare companies WellCare and Meridian have both thrown in the towel in their fight for a piece of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid system. Their decisions follow a ruling by Polk County District Court Judge Robert Blink, which struck down appeals from both companies.

WellCare argued the state was wrong to terminate its contract to manage Iowa's Medicaid system. In November, an administrative judge found WellCare violated the bid process, and the Branstad administration sided with that decision.

A residential treatment center for teen boys is being sued for refusing to allow a federally-mandated agency to inspect the facility and its records.

Disability Rights Iowa says a minor with the initials P.F., who stayed at the Rabiner Treatment Center in Ft. Dodge last year alleges a staff member slammed him against a wall. P.F. also claims an center employee provided boys at the treatment center with alcohol, tobacco, and other controlled substances. Rabiner’s services include substance abuse treatment.

The Iowa Utilities Board has not yet decided whether to grant a permit for a pipeline that would carry North Dakota crude oil across the state. IUB permission is necessary for pipeline company Dakota Access to use eminent domain, so that it can construct the pipeline through private land.

Iowa Public Radio / Joyce Russell

Three State Senate Republicans crossed party lines in voting to pass a bill that would stop the privatization of Iowa's Medicaid system. 

State Sen. David Johnson of Osceola County is the ranking Republican on the Human Services Committee. He says Iowa is trying to do too much too fast and, as a result, healthcare providers and vulnerable people are getting dumped on.

“We need to put a dagger in this,” says Johnson. “It’s moving too fast, and we can come up with a better plan. I’m absolutely convinced of that."

WIKICOMMONS / Klaus with K

Iowa’s NAACP chapter is asking state lawmakers to pass a number of significant criminal justice reforms this year. The organization says these reforms will improve the lives of African-Americans in Iowa who are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.

Flickr / Pat Hawks

If you are one of many who dislike driving on Interstate-80, the Iowa Department of Transportation wants to know what you’d do to make it better through an online survey. The department is gearing up for some major updates to I-80 and is collecting opinion data on the interstate's traffic volume, safety, convenience, and quality.

One of the main options being considered is additional lanes.

FLICKR / GEOF WILSON

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding afternoon meetings this week on whether to grant a permit that allows the construction of a crude oil pipeline through Iowa. The proposed 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline would begin in North Dakota, travel through South Dakota and Iowa, and terminate in south-central Illinois.

Dakota Access’s parent company, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, needs permission from the Iowa Utilities Board so it can use eminent domain to gain access to land along the pipeline’s proposed route.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

A former staffer from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign is asking he be tried separately from his codefendant on charges related to concealing information from the Federal Election Commission. Paul's campaign manager John Tate says testimony proving his innocence will not be heard if he’s tried with deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari.

A Webster City Hot Lotto winner says he was shortchanged $10 million in his cash prize, and is now suing for that sum plus interest. The lawsuit stems from the rigging of the Hot Lotto game back in December 2010, when Multi-State Lottery Association information security employee Eddie Tipton fraudulently programmed the game to spit out a specific set of numbers and then purchased a ticket with those numbers.

Hot Lotto is a “progressive jackpot" game. If there's no winner, the money is put in the next pot with at least an additional $50,000. 

Clay Masters/IPR

The Iowa Republican Party set a record for GOP caucus turnout last night, with nearly 186,000 participants. The party hopes this means good things for November since many of these caucus goers are new voters.

"We're looking at this data and we're saying, 'Wow, we have enthusiastic voters.' And if you can capture them and work with them, you know we have a really great shoot at turning Iowa red for the presidential election," says Charlie Szold of the Iowa GOP. 

Flickr / Katie Haugland

There’s either a blizzard, winter, or ice storm warning for most of Iowa making travel extremely hazardous. Parts of the state will get 6 to 12 twelve inches of snow.

"We have a big area of low pressure that moving threw the plains and the Midwest," says meteorologist Kelsey Engle at the National Weather Service’s Des Moines Office. "With temperatures cold enough, as well as well enough moisture, that is producing snow across Iowa."

Joyce Russell, Sarah Boden, Amy Mayer/IPR

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination, while the Democratic race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was considered neck-and-neck early this morning.

In a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz thanked Iowa Republicans while also referencing scripture, Reagan Democrats, and what he calls “courageous conservatives”.

Healthcare companies WellCare and Meridian are continuing their fights to manage a piece of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid system.

WellCare was one of four companies selected to privatize Medicaid. But its contract was terminated after Administrative Law Judge Christie Scase determined it had violated rules of the bid process. 

Wikipedia / Citizensharp

In addition to the 1,681 caucus precincts, some Iowa Democrats also have the option to attend either a "satellite caucus" or "tele-caucus" on Monday night. 

Andy McGuire, head of the Iowa Democratic Party, describes these new caucus options as "baby steps" towards a more inclusive process. 

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Many Iowa Republicans are still considering which candidate they'll caucus for on Monday. A Quinnipiac poll of likely GOP caucus participants from earlier this week has 39 percent saying they may change their minds.

Some of the undecided gathered in front of two large projectors on the second floor of the downtown Des Moines Marriott last night to watch the last GOP debate before the caucuses. Moderated by Fox News, the debate was held a half-mile away at the Iowa Events Center. 

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