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.

school bus
Cannon Air Force Base

A Senate panel advanced a deal Tuesday by Republican statehouse leaders to increase funding for Iowa’s K-12 public schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

It would provide a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, which is an additional $78.6 million. A separate proposal aimed at reducing historical inequities in funding and transportation costs across school districts brings the proposed total up to $89.3 million in new dollars for next year.

dave jamison
John Pemble/IPR file

Iowa will pay $4.15 million to two women who accused former Iowa Finance Authority director Dave Jamison of sexual harassment in settlement payments approved Monday by state officials.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds fired Jamison in March 2018 after she received complaints about him. Jamison was a longtime friend of the governor’s.

John Pemble / IPR file

Legalizing sports betting takes center stage this week at the Capitol as lawmakers return for week four of the legislative session. There was also some movement last week on a couple of possible constitutional amendments.

John Pemble/IPR file

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that allows states to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting. Until then, Nevada was the only state where fans could legally put bets on games and point spreads. Eight states have now legalized sports betting.

Several proposals that would legalize sports betting in Iowa are set to get a first hearing at the statehouse Wednesday, and lawmakers will hear from numerous competing interests.

naacp presidents testify at statehouse
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions passed its first legislative hurdle Thursday. Groups of many political stripes advocated for it.

regents presidents
Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s three public universities asked lawmakers Tuesday for an additional $18 million after raising tuition, and amid plans by two universities to raise tuition again.

The presidents of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University said their requests for $7 million each would go to financial aid for undergraduate students as they continue to raise tuition.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen said she is optimistic, but if the request isn’t met, the financial burden will continue to shift to students in the form of bigger tuition hikes.

kayla koether
John Pemble/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives voted Monday night to not count 29 mail-in ballots in a close northeast Iowa statehouse race.

The 53-42 party-line vote approved a report saying the Iowa House does not have the legal authority to open and count the ballots, and upheld Republican incumbent Rep. Michael Bergan’s, R-Dorchester, win by nine votes over a Democratic challenger in House District 55.

John Pemble / IPR file

It's week three of the 2019 Iowa legislative session and there are plenty of issues to watch. IPR's Clay Masters spoke with state government reporter Katarina Sostaric.

Sebastiaan ter Burg

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow felons in Iowa to vote after completing their prison sentences, probation, and parole.

Since 2011, Iowa felons who serve their full sentences, including parole, must apply for the right to vote. Their ability to vote is then determined on a case-by-case basis by the Governor’s office.

kim reynolds
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds released details Tuesday about a proposal to automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions, a priority she announced last week in her Condition of the State address.

She is proposing a constitutional amendment that would automatically allow people with felony convictions to register to vote after they’ve completed their sentence. That includes completing probation or parole under the current definition.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican state lawmakers say they don’t have the legal authority to count 29 ballots that were tossed out in a contested northeast Iowa race. A legislative committee plans to make that recommendation to the full House, which has the final say in the District 55 race. Republican incumbent Michael Bergan beat Democratic challenger Kayla Koether by a nine vote margin in the contest, meaning the 29 ballots could change the outcome.

bobby kaufmann
Joyce Russell/IPR file

A Republican representative who chairs the House State Government Committee said Tuesday there will be no changes to the retirement benefits system for Iowa’s public employees, or IPERS, in the next two years.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, made the announcement in response to what he called “scare tactics” from some groups warning of imminent changes to IPERS.

planned parenthood lawyer
Michael Zamora / Des Moines Register

A Polk County judge struck down Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion law Tuesday and ruled it is unconstitutional.

Judge Michael Huppert agreed with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa that a trial was not necessary to reach that conclusion and ruled in favor of their motion for summary judgment.

Bruno Stergodt / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa lawmakers gave preliminary approval this week to two measures that would expand the circumstances in which loaded guns are allowed on school grounds.

One would make it legal for parents with a valid permit to have a loaded weapon on them while they’re in a school parking lot or driveway, dropping off or picking up their kids. It would not allow parents to bring weapons into school buildings.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, proposed the bill.

mark cady
John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady struck a more positive tone this year with his forward-looking speech to lawmakers Wednesday. He said the court system is building a culture of “continuous improvement.”

“Let us imagine what your courts can be and where they can take us in our pursuit to achieve justice for all Iowans,” Cady said in his ninth Condition of the Judiciary address. “When we have a chance to make a difference, we should take it. Let us make that difference together.”

John Pemble/IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her second Condition of the State address Tuesday, but it was her first after being elected to a full four-year term.

“My vision for the future of Iowa hasn’t changed,” Reynolds said. “But the future I see isn’t around the corner, or after the next election. The future is now. The time is now to deliver on the promises we’ve made to Iowans looking for a way up.”

She called on lawmakers to help implement the vision she set forth in 2018, but it’s unclear how far they will go.

Linda Upmeyer
John Pemble / IPR

As lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session, Republican leaders said they are excited about having full control of the statehouse for the third session in a row.

Party leaders and lawmakers started the day at a fundraising breakfast for Iowa Republicans, where party chair Jeff Kaufmann said the recent elections gave them a mandate to continue their work.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican lawmakers said Monday they are disappointed and frustrated because a proposal to add gun rights to the Iowa Constitution will likely be delayed or derailed due to inaction by a Republican official.

John Pemble/IPR file

A special committee of Iowa House lawmakers will hear from lawyers Wednesday in the case of a disputed legislative seat for northeast Iowa's District 55.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa lawmakers will gavel in Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session. It’s the third legislative session in a row with full Republican control of the statehouse.  Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver. R-Ankeny, says his members are excited to build on their accomplishments of the past two years.

“Just because it’s been done a certain way for 20 or 30 or 40 years, doesn’t mean it needs to be done that way for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years,” Sen. Whitver says.

legislative leadership
John Pemble/IPR

Iowa’s top Republican lawmakers said Thursday they will likely consider changes to the state’s merit-based system for choosing Supreme Court justices during the legislative session that starts Monday.

At a forum with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, accused Iowa Supreme Court justices of “judicial activism” over the past two decades. He said “the general populace” should have more say in how justices are picked.

John Pemble / IPR

In the fall, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds was elected to her first full four-year term. She says she still plans to meet with her Democratic opponent Fred Hubbell, whom she beat by 3 points. IPR's Morning Edition Host Clay Masters and State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric sat down with Gov. Reynolds Thursday ahead of the legislative session, which begins on January 14.

electric bill
Alliant Energy

Starting in January, Iowans who buy energy from MidAmerican, Interstate Power and Light (Alliant Energy), and Black Hills Energy will get monthly bills that look a bit different. Electric and gas bills will list an energy efficiency charge as required by a new law.

But it’s not a new, additional charge.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she will try to enact a law that would allow Iowans to get birth control pills directly from a pharmacist without seeing a doctor first. She said it's the right thing to do.

“This is an opportunity for us to do a common sense thing that I think needs to be done,” Reynolds said in an interview with Iowa Public Radio. “So I’m hopeful we can have bipartisan support, and we can move this through.”

dave jamison
John Pemble/IPR file

State auditors have found the Iowa Finance Authority misspent $549,399 in the roughly two years before former Executive Director Dave Jamison was fired over sexual harassment allegations.

The report released Friday was one of several investigations launched weeks after Gov. Kim Reynolds fired Jamison, a personal friend of hers, on March 24.

nate boulton
John Pemble / IPR file

The Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously Thursday to dismiss a sexual misconduct complaint against Democratic Sen. Nate Boulton because the alleged conduct happened before he was in elected office.

Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, was the only lawmaker to speak during the four-minute meeting. Reading from a written statement, he said the committee could only decide Thursday if the complaint was within its jurisdiction, not determine if the allegations are true.

revenue estimating conference
John Pemble/IPR / IPR

A state panel estimated Thursday Iowa’s revenue will grow in the next fiscal year, but it will grow more slowly than it did this year.

Lawmakers use figures from the Revenue Estimating Conference to determine the state budget each year. In the past two years, lower-than-expected revenue led lawmakers to make mid-year budget cuts.

kim reynolds
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Iowa’s Republican governor said Tuesday she is open to considering changing how Iowa selects judges.

Gov. Kim Reynolds was reacting to calls for change from some conservatives after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled there’s a fundamental right to abortion in the state.

nate boulton
John Pemble/IPR file

State Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, is asking the Senate Ethics Committee to dismiss a sexual harassment complaint against him because the alleged incident happened before he was in office.

His response to the complaint, submitted Monday by his attorney Paige Fiedler, also states some of the allegations “do not ring true.”

Wikimedia Commons

The legal battle over Iowa’s law that prohibits most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected continued with a hearing Friday in a packed courtroom at the Polk County Courthouse.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa, with their motion for summary judgment, asked the judge to forgo a trial and declare the abortion law unconstitutional.