Katarina Sostaric

State Government Reporter

Katarina Sostaric is the State Government Reporter for Iowa Public Radio.

She previously covered Eastern Iowa for IPR from Iowa City. Before coming to Iowa, Katarina was a reporter and host at a public radio station in Southeast Alaska, where her work also aired on Alaska’s statewide public radio network.

Katarina worked as a Morning Edition news anchor and general assignment reporter at KBIA in Columbia while she was a student at the Missouri School of Journalism. She has bachelor’s degrees in Convergence Journalism and International Studies from the University of Missouri.

Katarina’s favorite public radio program is Reveal.

jake chapman
John Pemble/IPR

Republican senators renewed their effort Thursday to amend the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect a right to abortion.

Originally proposed around this time last year, the amendment is an attempt to undo a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that protects a fundamental right to abortion in the state.

david wiggins
John Pemble / IPR

The acting chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court highlighted the importance of respecting government institutions in his Condition of the Judiciary speech before the Iowa Legislature Wednesday.

Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins said he drew on the ideas of the late Chief Justice Mark Cady to talk about the respect the courts have for elected officials. He said both are set up to speak for the people of Iowa in different ways.

reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds called for big changes to Iowa’s tax system in her third Condition of the State address Tuesday, but lawmakers say they need more details before backing her proposal.

John Pemble

Monday is the first day of the 2020 legislative session.  For the fourth session in a row, Republicans have control of the governor’s office, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about what to expect this legislative session.

 

pat grassley
John Pemble / IPR

This post was updated Monday, Jan. 13 at 4:52 p.m. 

The Iowa House of Representatives officially elected Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, as the new Speaker of the House when the 2020 legislative session began Monday morning.

“Over the next 100 days…let’s make sure that we show Iowans that we are not like Washington, D.C.,” Grassley said in his first speech as speaker. 

Michael Leland / Flickr

The 2020 legislative session started Monday, introducing a renewed opportunity for policy changes in Iowa. Iowa Senate and House leaders join River to River to discuss their priorities for the upcoming months. 

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

State lawmakers are heading back to the Iowa Capitol for the 2020 legislative session Monday, Jan. 13. This session will mark the fourth consecutive year with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the governor’s office.

Here are some of the topics statehouse leaders expect to discuss this year.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday all pending voting rights restoration applications from people with felony records will be reviewed before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

Iowa is the only state that still bans all people with felony convictions from voting, forever, unless they appeal directly to the governor.

travis fugere
Natalie Krebs / IPR

As the clock ticks down to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, Travis Fugere of Waukee is waiting to find out if he will get to join in. He is one of tens of thousands of Iowans barred from voting because of a past felony conviction.

In November, Fugere applied to the governor to get his voting rights restored. But it’s not clear if he and other recent applicants will get approved in time to caucus on February 3.

house republican leaders
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, is set to officially become speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives after the legislature gavels in January 13.

In an interview with Iowa Public Radio, he said House Republicans want to focus on addressing the state’s workforce shortage. And he said one avenue they are considering is removing what is known as the “cliff effect” for government child care assistance.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Legislature is set to gavel in January 13, kicking off the third legislative session with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds leading the state.

She wants to focus on policies that will help Iowans getting out of prison successfully re-enter the community. And a criminal justice reform committee appointed by Reynolds recently announced recommendations for that.

“We’re still working through that right now,” Reynolds said. “But I thought the list of recommendations that they proposed were a really good start.”

todd prichard
John Pemble / IPR

The top Democrat in the Iowa House of Representatives says state institutions for vulnerable residents with health challenges need more funding and oversight.

jack whitver
John Pemble / IPR

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate says cutting taxes and addressing the state’s workforce shortage will be major priorities when lawmakers convene for the 2020 legislative session January 13.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, has the authority to set the lawmaking agenda in the 50-person chamber.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

State revenue forecasters are a bit more optimistic about how much money is flowing into Iowa’s coffers than they were two months ago. On Thursday, they predicted state revenue for this fiscal year and the next will be slightly higher than they first thought.

felon voting application
John Pemble / IPR file

Starting Thursday, people being discharged from Iowa prisons will have a bit more help getting their voting rights restored.

Iowa bans all people with felony convictions from voting unless they apply to the governor to get their rights restored.

Iowa Department of Corrections Director Beth Skinner said prisons and community-based corrections officers will now give people finishing their sentence a mostly filled out voting rights application instead of a blank one.

regents meeting
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The governing board for the state’s public universities approved an agreement Tuesday for two French companies to take over operation of the University of Iowa’s utility system for 50 years in an effort to generate funding for UI’s performance goals.

ENGIE North America and Meridiam, which have a similar agreement with Ohio State University, will pay the University of Iowa $1.165 billion up front. The University of Iowa plans to invest about $999 million of that in a new endowment that is projected to yield more than $3 billion in 50 years.

janet petersen
John Pemble / IPR file

The top Democrat in the Iowa Senate said she is thankful that federal investigators are looking into possible civil rights violations at two residential institutions for Iowans with disabilities.

Paul 710928003 / flickr

The Iowa Department of Corrections has been rolling out a new policy in the past year aimed at addressing racial disparities in the state’s prison system.

river
Clay Masters / IPR file

A top Iowa lawmaker says Senate Republicans are developing a tax package that may include a sales tax increase to fund water quality efforts and outdoor recreation.

Iowans voted in 2010 to approve a three-eighths of one cent sales tax increase for what is now called Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, or IWILL, but lawmakers haven’t enacted the tax increase to fund the initiative.

At an event Thursday hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, which announced funding IWILL as a top policy priority, legislative leaders were asked about its prospects in 2020.

newton prison painting
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Inmates at the state prison in Newton are expected to finish building the first two houses in a new construction program by the end of the year, while a new website has launched to display their work.

The Homes For Iowa program that started earlier this year is aimed at filling Iowa’s workforce and affordable housing shortages, while giving inmates skills that may help them get a job when they leave prison.

Former Iowa governor and current ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, gives testimony at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
Des Moines Register pool photo

Gov. Kim Reynolds has decided to appeal a $1.5 million discrimination verdict against the state and former Gov. Terry Branstad amid mounting legal costs.

Seven years ago, a former state official who is gay sued Branstad and the state for discrimination and retaliation. In July, a jury awarded Chris Godfrey $1.5 million, finding Branstad and a staffer discriminated against him in 2011 and then retaliated by slashing his salary.

cady memorial service
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Hundreds of Iowans gathered at Drake University in Des Moines Wednesday to remember the life of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died of a heart attack Friday night at the age of 66.

Four speakers, friends and colleagues of Cady, described a kind, compassionate man who dedicated his life to fairness and justice.

Katie Peikes / IPR

Students from western Iowa’s Denison High School walked out of their classes in protest Tuesday morning, calling for an outside investigation into racism and diversity issues in the school. This comes after Denison Community Schools placed a teacher on leave for using a racial slur in class discussions last week. 

alamosbasement/flickr

A state task force submitted recommendations to Iowa lawmakers Monday aimed at improving instruction for students with dyslexia and other struggling readers. Five to 17 percent of the population is estimated to have dyslexia.

mark cady
John Pemble/IPR

Advocates and politicians of all stripes are lamenting the death of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. He died Friday night of a heart attack at the age of 66, according to a statement from the judicial branch.

“The state lost a great man, husband, father, grandfather and jurist,” Cady’s family wrote in a statement.

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

Two Democratic lawmakers said Friday Iowa’s medical cannabis program could be at risk if the state doesn’t expand it as Illinois prepares to legalize recreational marijuana in 2020.

Earlier this year, Iowa Republicans and Democrats voted to pass a bill that would allow dispensaries to sell more potent medical cannabis products. It also would’ve expanded the number of health care providers who are eligible to certify medical conditions for Iowans applying for medical cannabis cards.

voting sign
John Pemble / IPR file

Secretary of State Paul Pate says his office is continuing to work on ways to fix and prevent errors in Iowa’s list of people who are barred from voting because they have been convicted of felonies.

reynolds
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday highlighted National Apprenticeship Week at a farm equipment dealer in Nevada that got state support to help develop a training program for mechanics.

voter ID card
Iowa Secretary of State

Iowa voters will go to the polls Tuesday for local and school elections, marking the first statewide election for which Iowa’s new voter ID law is in full effect.

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

A state board voted Friday to recommend allowing patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to qualify for Iowa’s medical cannabis program, a recommendation that now goes to the Iowa Board of Medicine for final consideration.

Four board members, who are also medical professionals, approved this after stating there is not enough scientific evidence supporting use of cannabis to treat PTSD.

Board member Dr. Lonny Miller said it will be several years before strong scientific conclusions can be drawn about cannabis as a medical treatment.

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