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.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board today threw out ethics complaints against Gov. Kim Reynolds for accepting gifts of free flights on private jets, including a trip to a bowl game in Memphis last year.   

Since May of 2017, in nine instances the Reynolds campaign traveled on private planes. and reported it as in-kind campaign contributions.     

Board Chairman James Albert questioned the board’s attorney Megan Tooker about precedent for such free travel.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds this week defended her appointment of 6th District Judge Jason Besler, following questions about whether it met a constitutional deadline. 

The governor must make a judicial appointment by 30 days after names are submitted to her.  If the deadline is not met, the constitution requires the chief justice to make the appointment instead.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Democratic Party of Iowa today accused Gov. Kim Reynolds  of corruption in office for taking campaign contributions from one of the managed care organizations that are  benefiting from the privatization of Medicaid services in Iowa.    

According to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Finance Board, the political action committee for Anthem, Inc., the parent company of Amerigroup, has given $2500 this year to the Reynolds campaign.  A contribution of $1500 arrived on August 22, two days before contracts were signed with the private firms.

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office is defending a recent judicial appointment, after a Democratic blogger claimed the governor missed the deadline for selecting a new district judge.

According to Bleeding Heartland, there is no written confirmation that Reynolds selected Jason Besler for the 6th district judgeship by 30 days after his name was submitted to her.

According to the Iowa Constitution, if the deadline is missed, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court makes the selection instead.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Senior Legal Counsel and special adviser Sam Langholz told a conservative crowd in Urbandale today that the election for governor this year could affect the makeup of the Iowa Supreme Court for decades to come.      

Langholz spoke to about 50 people at a breakfast meeting of the Westside Conservative Club at the Machine Shed restaurant.

He cited recent court decisions that conservatives opposed, and suggested that future appointees could mean different results. 

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Democrat J. D. Scholten who’s running for Congress in Iowa’s 4th  District says incumbent Republican Steve King is abdicating his leadership by declining his invitation for three campaign debates.  

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A nearly six-year-old lawsuit challenging Iowa’s program for keeping sex offenders confined after they serve their prison terms has been dismissed by a federal judge in Sioux City.  

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett ruled against patients in the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders, or CCUSO, housed at the Mental Health Institute in  Cherokee.  

An offender is assigned to the program after a civil court deems him or her to be a risk to society.    But there have been civil rights challenges here and elsewhere.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today defended her call for immigration reform following the killing of University of Iowa student Molly Tibbetts, allegedly by a man federal officials say is an undocumented Mexican immigrant.  

Following the discovery of the victim’s body, President Trump, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Gov. Reynolds all issued statements highlighting the immigration status of Cristhian Rivera who is jailed on a first degree murder charge.    

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A qualified voter in a special schoolboard election in Washington County Tuesday was turned away at the polls, and election officials are promising better training in the future about Iowa’s new voter ID law.   

Susan McClellan arrived at the polling place in Wellman for the Mid-Prairie School Board election without her driver’s license.  

For this year, Iowa’s new voter ID law requires poll workers to ask for an ID, but to offer the voter the option of signing an oath of identification instead.

Rich Mason/flickr

Some Iowans who registered to vote this summer and received their voter registration cards in the mail are about to receive a second mailing with updated cards. 

That follows a court ruling directing the secretary of state not to distribute materials that say an ID is required to vote this year.    

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the law complained that the secretary of state’s office was distributing materials saying voter identification is required at the polls this year, when that’s not required until next year.    

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Iowa’s elementary and high school students will be taking brand new standardized tests this school year.   They will take the place of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, otherwise known as the Iowa Assessments, that students have taken for decades.    

The new tests will help meet new state and federal requirements, but they’re still under development and that makes some educators nervous. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new state board held its inaugural meeting today charged with developing a statewide system for children’s mental health.   The Children’s State Board made up of educators, law enforcement, human services officials, and others is the result of an executive order earlier this year from Gov. Reynolds. 

Communities across the state are plagued with a shortage of crisis care, child psychiatrists, and psychiatric hospital beds for kids.  

John Pemble/IPR

The Republican candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd district spoke from the Des Moines Register Soapbox Friday, calling the incumbent “a nice guy but part of the status quo.”

Iowa city physician Christopher Peters hopes to unseat six- term Democrat Dave Loebsack. 

Peters said he would have voted differently from Loebsack on a host of issues, from health care to banking reform. 

He brings his medical expertise to the campaign.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Vice President Mike Pence rallied Republican voters in Des Moines today at a roundtable event sponsored by a pro tax-cut group known as “America First Policies.” 

In a rousing 30-minute speech to a first-come, first-served crowd of about 250, Pence criticized the Washington media and recited what he sees as the accomplishments so far of the Trump administration.  

That includes record tax cuts, exiting the Paris climate accords, and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Burlington Hawk Eye Newspaper

A federal judge in Davenport Tuesday ruled that body camera video and other evidence in a 2015 Burlington police shooting should be made public.

Thirty-four-year-old Autumn Steele was shot and killed by officer Jesse Hill after responding to a domestic abuse call at her home.

The Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have resisted release of the video.

Under Judge James Gritzner’s ruling, the city of Burlington will have 14 days to propose redactions to be approved by the court before the information is made public.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate brought his re-election campaign to the Iowa State Fair Tuesday, taking his turn on the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.  

As the state’s chief elections officer, Pate said Iowa has registered a quarter of a million new voters during his time in office, aided in part by a new online voter registration system.   He said the state ranks among the top in the nation for voter participation and registration.   Also, 17-year olds can now register and vote in primary elections.

Iowa Democratic Party

The annual veterans parade at the Iowa State Fair turned controversial Monday when a Democratic veterans group was barred from the event.   

The Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus was initially issued credentials from the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs through what organizers call a clerical process.   But when the organizers reviewed the applications late last week, they recinded the credentials for the IDVC.  

Daniel Gannon is part of the informal group of organizers he calls the Iowa State Fair Veterans Committee.  He says they’ve always banned political groups.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack warned state fairgoers Monday that if Republicans retain control of the U.S. House, there will be a renewed attempt at entitlement reform directed at the nation’s senior citizens.     

Loebsack was first elected in a Democratic wave in 2006 after President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize social security failed to advance. 

“It crashed and burned due to bipartisan opposition,” Loebsack said from the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the fair.  

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Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate won a partial victory Friday in his quest to preserve the state’s new voter ID law, including new restrictions on absentee ballots.   

Under an order issued Friday by the Iowa Supreme Court, early voting for the November election will be allowed for 29 days before Election Day, as dictated by the new law.  

Critics of the law had hoped to prevent the state from shortening the time and instead keep the old limit of 40 days.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

Attorneys for Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate were at the Iowa Supreme Court today, arguing for reinstatement of parts of Iowa’s new Voter ID law.     

Requiring an ID at the polls doesn’t take effect until next year, but new rules for absentee ballots went into effect this year.

Last month, a district court judge issued a temporary injunction halting those parts of the law.   The Secretary of State wants the injunction lifted so the new absentee ballot rules can be in effect for the November election.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Eric Branstad, who directed President Trump’s Iowa campaign in 2016, says he is in discussions with the president about how to win Iowa again when Trump runs for re-election in 2020.   

Branstad, the son of former Governor Terry Branstad, led the president to a nine-point victory in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.   

Speaking at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, he left little doubt he’d like to direct the Iowa campaign again.

Rafael Radkowski/flickr

Iowa State University has settled two lawsuits filed by an African-American woman who was fired from her position as head of the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX coordinator.

The suits involved the university’s handling of a case of sexual assault.

One suit filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines and another in federal court in Iowa’s southern district claim Robinette Kelley was prevented from enforcing civils rights regulations on campus under Iowa’s Civil Rights Statute and under the federal government’s Title IX. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Grain, livestock and dairy farmers from around the state expressed support for President Trump’s trade policies at a roundtable discussion in Des Moines sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa.   

The president’s tariffs against China and other countries have pushed prices down for some Iowa commodities.   But the farmers say they’re optimistic the tariffs will result in fairer trade practices in the future.   

Hog farmer Doug Reimer from Guttenberg says his operation has been “hit somewhat.”

The former state senator who made recommendations last year for addressing sexual harassment in the Iowa Senate is weighing in on State Senator Nate Boulton’s decision to return to the capitol.  

Boulton (D-Des Moines) dropped out of the race for the democratic nomination for governor after complaints of sexual improprieties.   Some of his Democratic colleagues, including Minority Leader Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines), wanted Boulton to resign his Senate seat.    

But former Republican Senator Mary Kramer says that wouldn’t be fair to the voters who put him in office.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Portions of Iowa’s controversial voter ID law will not be enforced for now, after a ruling today by a Polk County District Court judge.  

The law signed by former Governor Terry Branstad in 2017 requires voters to show identification at the polls starting in 2019.

Judge Karen Romano’s ruling temporarily blocks other parts of the law governing absentee ballots which were already in effect for the June primary election.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Attorneys for the Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation were in a Des Moines hearing room Friday, arguing for the confidentiality of records in a fatal police shooting more than three years ago.   

The Burlington Hawkeye and the victim’s family seek the release of police video and 911 recordings in the death of Autumn Steele, who was fatally shot by Officer Jesse Hill at the Steele home in January of 2015.  

Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is satisfied with President Donald Trump’s explanation for his controversial remarks in Finland this week that caused an outpouring of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.  

At a news conference on Monday, Trump concurred with President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.   That contradicted Trump’s own intelligence agencies conclusions that Russian agents were behind U.S.  cybersecurity violations.

On Tuesday, Trump walked back his comments and said he misspoke. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds was in Ypsilanti, Michigan today pleading with the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Iowa farmers who produce renewable fuels.

The EPA is considering rules for 2019 for the Renewable Fuel Standard governing how much ethanol and biodiesel must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

The proposed rules would set the conventional ethanol level at the maximum 15 billion gallons, and increase the requirements for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

Iowa Public Radio

Democratic State Sen. Nate Boulton says he will retain his seat in the Iowa Senate, in spite of calls for his resignation.  

Boulton was accused of sexual misconduct and dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor.  

That was days before the June primary, after the Des Moines Register revealed complaints from women who described being touched inappropriately by Boulton in social situations in the past.  

Iowa Public Radio

Some Iowa Republicans Monday issued statements critical of President Donald Trump for his remarks in Finland following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

In a joint news conference, the president appeared to accept Putin’s denial of involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, even though the U.S. Justice Department has indicted Russians in a cybersecurity scheme.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Trump said. "But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. 

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