A nationwide poll taken by Centre College in Danville shows a majority of Americans favor equal treatment under the law over respecting individual religious beliefs when the two come into conflict. 

About two-thirds of Americans feel individuals should be required to serve alcohol, fill prescriptions, and hire gay workers even if doing so would violate their conscience. 

On the heels of the Kim Davis saga, 65% of those questioned feel county clerks should be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite their religious beliefs. 

Centre Political Science Professor Benjamin Knoll says fewer respondents felt the same way toward providing wedding ceremony services.

"For example, less than half of Americans agreed that wedding photographers and bakers should be required to offer services to same-sex marriage ceremonies," Knoll told WKU Public Radio.  "Only about a quarter of Americans felt pastors and priests should be required to perform marriage ceremonies."

The poll questioned 487 Americans between September 24th and October 1st.  The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5%.

The same poll also gauged Americans' opinions on the 2016 presidential race.  The full survey can be found here.

Credit Rayburn123 / Wikimedia Commons

The new director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission says he’s ready to make changes to the state agency after a years-long sexual harassment scandal and complaints of low morale. 

David Byerman started his job last week.

Byerman says the LRC needs to get its “swagger back.”

The LRC runs much of the administration at the state capitol and also manages staffers who work for state lawmakers. It’s been embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that broke in the summer of 2013 and brought about accusations of favoritism and opaque hiring practices.

Byerman said he’s going to create structure in the state agency.
“We have the right workforce, we just need for the level of leadership to rise to the level of performance we’re already getting from our employees.”

Byerman started last Thursday. He says some of the biggest changes probably won’t come until after next year’s legislative session, which ends in April.

A report released earlier this year found that the LRC had unclear hiring and compensation practices that were influenced by favoritism.

Byerman says that privately, LRC employees have reinforced the report’s findings, but reforming the LRC’s compensation system will take time.
“If you have people being overpaid, what do you do? Do you promote them? Do you make them do more work for the pay that they currently have? That’s one option. Do you fire them if they’re overcompensated for the job? I don’t know the answer to that yet”

The LRC’s troubles were made public when two staffers sued then-Rep. John Arnold, accusing him of inappropriately touching them. Arnold later resigned, was fined $3,000 by the Legislative Ethics Commission, and eventually settled the case with the women.

Former LRC Director Bobby Sherman was also a defendant in the case.

Federal prosecutors say a Kentucky-based pharmacy has agreed to pay $9.25 million to settle allegations that it solicited and received kickbacks from a manufacturer in exchange for promoting a drug with nursing home patients.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday the settlement with Louisville-based PharMerica Corp. resolves claims that it received kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories in exchange for recommending that physicians prescribe the Abbott-manufactured drug Depakote.

The settlement partially resolves allegations in two whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in the western district of Virginia.

In 2012, Abbott pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1.5 billion over allegations that it promoted Depakote for patients with dementia and autism — uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug was approved for bipolar disorder and epilepsy.

An outside audit says Big Rivers Electric Corp. should consider selling power plants that it doesn't need after losing its two largest customers.

Local media outlets report the audit was released Tuesday by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

The independent review suggests that the company should explore the sale of both the D.B. Wilson power plant in Centertown and the Kenneth C. Coleman plant in Hawesville.

The audit says that Big Rivers will need to "move more aggressively in coming years" to mitigate the loss of the Century Aluminum smelters in Hawesville and Sebree.

In an email, company spokesman Marty Littrel told the Messenger-Inquirer newspaper that Big Rivers couldn't comment on the audit report.

Big Rivers is owned by three distribution cooperatives, which serve about 112,000 customers in western Kentucky.

The major party candidates for governor Tuesday night argued over whether Kentucky should enact Right to Work legislation. Right to work would mean employees could work for unionized businesses without having to pay union dues

Republican candidate Matt Bevin said he wants to “un-constipate Frankfort” by making the state more business-friendly.
“These jobs will come when we pass right to work legislation, comprehensive tax reform, tort reform and fix our pension crisis. If we don’t fix these things, the jobs won’t come, the retirement savings won’t come”
Bevin says that companies looking to expand or relocate pass over Kentucky because it doesn’t have a right to work law on the books.

Democrat Jack Conway argued that the right to work issue is a “solution looking for a problem,” and said the state needs to focus instead on educating the workforce.

The major party candidates for governor also discussed whether Kentucky should drug test welfare recipients during the debate at Centre College last night.

Bevin said that while the state can’t indiscriminately drug test people, it should if it has probable cause.
“Why should people that are getting everything from those who are working every day and being randomly drug tested have no expectation of them on a similar front,”

Democrat Jack Conway, who posed the question about drug testing to Bevin, said that the testing would be expensive and unconstitutional if the state didn’t establish probable cause.

Conway has also stated the he supports drug testing some welfare recipients.

Borrowing attitudes are posing a challenge for community banks in Kentucky and across the nation. 

Community bankers recently provided input at town hall meetings hosted by state regulators in 27 states, including Kentucky. 

Charles Vice, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions, says borrowers are still hesitant to take the risks they were willing to take prior to the recession.

"People are still paying down debt and saving more, and because of that, it doesn't give our banks the lending opportunities that they had in the past," Vice told WKU Public Radio.

Other challenges include the regulatory climate and competition from non-bank sources.

"What banks are telling us is that marketplace lending or peer-to-peer lending is creating a lot of competition for them," added Vice.  "Many banks had stories of neighbors funding loans for other neighbors to buy cars and homes."

The Community Banking in the 21st Century report was released at the third annual Community Banking Research and Policy Conference, hosted Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 

Vice notes that while community banks control less than 20 percent of total banking assets right now, they make more than 50 percent of the loans to small business and they issue 70 percent of the loans for agricultural production. 

He adds community banks are important especially to small and rural towns where access is limited to large national banks.

One of the best vegetable gardens in Owensboro is growing in one of the most unlikely places. The two and a half acre garden has been turning out bushels full of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, corn and cucumbers inside the walls of the Daviess County Detention Center.

Joe Corcoran visited the jail and reports the tons of vegetables are helping the inmates in more ways than one.

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky Music Director Jeffrey Reed has been named one of this year’s 12 University of Louisville Alumni Fellows.  

Reed co-founded Orchestra Kentucky in Bowling Green in 2000. He was recognized by the University of Louisville especially for growing audiences by combining classical and popular music unified by a theme.  

“We started with a traditional all classical program and found that although the public supported it, the numbers were very modest," said Reed. "And I kind of morphed into the present approach.”

That present approach has included concerts featuring the music of  Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers and Paul Williams.

“We’ve presented an Elvis concert. Of course, Elvis used orchestra in his recording, so it was a perfect concert for that," Reed said. "We just had Kenny Rogers here and Paul Williams, the Oscar winning songwriter. We have Michael W. Smith coming, the Christian artist. So we present many headliners with the orchestra, as well.” 

In honor of being chosen a University of Louisville Alumni Fellow, Reed will present a lecture to music students and receive his award at a banquet at the university.

The orchestra’s Oct. 16 concert is a Sci Fi Spectacular, with music from 2001: A Space Odyssey,  Star Wars, E.T. and Star Trek.

Kentucky Dept. of Veterans Affairs

The new Radcliff Veterans Center is under construction and hiring staff in preparation for the opening estimated for mid-2016. 

The center’s administrator Israel Ray said the skilled nursing facility will provide top quality care for those who have served their country.           

"It will be unlike any long-term care facility in the state of Kentucky, in terms of the services and the layout that is set up for those veterans who will reside at the Radcliff Veterans Center," said Ray. "It will on a beautiful park-like naturistic setting.” 

The center is on 194 acres donated by Fort Knox.  A total of 120 veterans will live in the campus-like community.  Ray said the staff and the design of the center will create a quality, home-like community for those who have served their country.                                          

“No one will have to share. In the typical model there’s a piece of fabric or a cubical curtain, if you will, that separates two individuals in a semi-private room," said  Ray. "That will not be the case for the Radcliff Veterans Center. Every veteran will have their own private suite.”

The center is currently hiring  eight administrative staff, mostly as department heads. More hiring will follow, to staff up to a total of about 200 employees.

The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are 16,000 veterans in Hardin County. That’s in addition to 56,000 veterans in Jefferson County and 7,000 in Bullitt County.  

Nine semifinalists for the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award have been named.

The Kentucky Department of Education and Ashland Inc. made the announcement Monday.

Elementary school semifinalists are Joshua DeWar of Engelhard Elementary in Jefferson County, Sarah Lockard of A.C. Glasscock Elementary in Marion County and Michele McCloughan of Bowling Green Independent's T.C. Cherry Elementary.

Middle school semifinalists are Karen Mallonee of College View Middle in Daviess County, Rick Rafferty of Fort Thomas Independent's Highlands Middle and Carmen Thompson of Elkhorn Middle in Franklin County.

High school semifinalists are Lee E. Campbell of Knox County Central, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair of North Oldham County and Tracy Lambert of Lexington Lafayette.