News

Lisa Autry

The trial of a Scottsville man charged in the brutal murder of a young girl is still more than a year away. 

Timothy Madden returned to court Friday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.  Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker set a March 31 deadline for attorneys to request a change of venue.  After the hearing, Madden attorney Travis Lock said he would ask for the trial to be moved to another county.

"Can Tim Madden get a fair trial in Allen County, Kentucky?  I think that's very questionable," Madden stated.  "I think it's going to be tough to impanel a jury in any contiguous county.  I'm not sure where this case should be tried.  I'm sure that's something the court will address in due time."

Madden is facing the death penalty for allegedly kidnapping, raping, sodomizing, and murdering seven-year-old Gabbi Doolin last November. 

The case will not be ready for trial until late next year.  Judge Crocker said she would not set the trial date near the anniversary of Doolin’s death or the holidays.  Therefore, the death penalty case is expected to be tried in January 2018.

Lost River Sessions

This month's Lost River Sessions radio show features JD Wilkes in a set recorded at Lost River Cave in Bowling Green.  In the second half of the show, Lucette performs at Hidden Homestead in Smith's Grove, Kentucky. 

As a bonus, we have a brief  feature spotlighting Dom Flemons in an interview conducted in Louisville earlier in 2016. 

Flickr/Creative Commons

University of Kentucky agricultural economists say the state's net farm income could drop to its lowest level since 2010.

They're pointing to sharply lower cattle prices along with large grain stockpiles and the lowest tobacco receipts of the post-tobacco buyout era as factors behind the decline in farm income. On the positive side, they say poultry receipts are back on track.

UK ag economist Will Snell said Thursday that Kentucky's net farm income — the amount left after expenses — is expected to drop below $1.5 billion in 2016, down from $1.7 billion in 2015. It's well off the peak of nearly $3 billion in 2013.

Agricultural cash receipts in 2016 are projected to drop 7 percent to $5.4 billion, down from a record high of $6.5 billion in 2014.

Erica Peterson

The proposed conversion of a natural gas pipeline across Kentucky is moving forward.

Friday is the final day to comment on a draft environmental assessment that found the project would have no significant environmental impacts. But environmental groups and residents affected by the pipeline say the project deserves a more thorough analysis.

In 2013, energy company Kinder Morgan announced it planned to stop carrying natural gas through the 1,400-mile Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Instead, it would convert the pipeline to carry natural gas liquids (NGLs) and reverse its flow.

NGLs are the byproduct of drilling for natural gas and contain hydrocarbons like butane, ethane and propane. They’re used in manufacturing plastics and other materials.

A former Franklin doctor whose prescribing practices resulted in patient deaths will have to wait a while longer to learn his punishment. 

Roy Reynolds returned to federal court in Bowling Green Wednesday for sentencing after pleading guilty earlier this year to illegally prescribing pain and anti-anxiety medicine. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky, two patients under Reynolds’ care died from drug overdoses.  One was a 46-year-old man with a history of illegal drug use and psychiatric issues.  Two days prior to his death, Dr. Reynolds prescribed him 180 Oxycodone pills and 90 Xanax tablets. 

Dr. Reynolds is also accused in the death of a 41-year-old man with a history of doctor shopping and drug and alcohol abuse.  An autopsy of his body showed Hydrocodone at 30 times the therapeutic concentration.

Creative Commons

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, has been elected to be the ranking minority member on the House Budget Committee, putting him in line to chair the powerful committee if Democrats ever take control of the chamber again.

The position will be in the limelight as the committee will likely consider measures to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act early next year — a concept supported by Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Yarmuth said he would use the position to promote Democratic stances on health policy and tax reform.

“We will be able through the debate on that budget to discuss the impact of Republican factions on the American people,” Yarmuth said. “Unlike in prior years when this was basically just kind of an academic exercise because the Republican budget was never going to be approved, this time it will have a real impact on the American people and that’s going to be our responsibility.”

Vickie Carson, Mammoth Cave National Park

The ongoing deterioration of a dam on the Green River in south central Kentucky is creating potential safety hazards.  A hole in the foundation of the dam has lowered water levels and resulted in swift currents.  The Corps of Engineers is advising boaters to avoid the upstream side of the dam. 

The river runs 26 miles through Mammoth Cave National Park.

"The river is really dynamic on a good day, a normal day, so after this, we're waiting to see how it reacts to this new level, said Vickie Carson, public information officer at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Access to the Green River at Houchin Ferry is closed due to the sudden drop in water levels following the breach.  Levels have dropped by as much as nine feet in some areas.  The park will re-assess river access at Houchin Ferry in the coming months.  The campground and picnic area will remain open.

Officials says while the collapse of the dam is possible, it would not be severe enough to cause any damage.

Thinkstock

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday said legislation wouldn’t help reduce surging gun violence in the state’s urban centers.

In response, Mayor Greg Fischer said he would continue pushing for state legislation that would allow cities like Louisville to adopt their own gun laws.

Speaking at a press event in Louisville Monday, Bevin said people who think “more government rules” can help put an end to shootings in Lexington and Louisville “are delusional,” according to a report from the Lexington Herald Leader.

Instead, Bevin said communities need to do “some serious soul searching” and “ask hard questions” to “heal [themselves] from within.” He declined to offer specific thoughts on what can be done to address gun violence in Kentucky’s largest cities but said it concerns him.

“This has to be addressed, it will be addressed, one way or the other,” he said. “This is something we will get to.”

Kevin Willis

The director of the Bowling Green International Center says some in the community continue to express concern about President-elect Donald Trump’s policies towards immigrants.

Trump said during the presidential campaign that he’d round up and deport those who are in the country illegally. He’s since backed off that position and said he will focus on deporting those who have been charged with crimes.

International Center director Albert Mbanfu says that’s little comfort to many of the refugees he encounters. He says he’s telling local refugees that they can’t be rounded up and deported.

“There are so many of our refugee kids wondering if they are going to be sent back to the refugee camps. So we try as much as possible to alleviate their fears and to let them understand that they are legal, and there’s no way they will send them back to the refugee camps.”

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An organization of current and retired Kentucky public school teachers has filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders for underfunding the teacher pension system, which lost $1.2 billion last year.

The Teachers Retirement Legal Fund says leaders violated state law as well as the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions by not setting aside enough money for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which manages the pensions of about 141,000 school system retirees.

Randy Wieck, a history teacher at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, said teachers have dutifully contributed to the pension system from their paychecks but the state hasn’t kept its side of the bargain.

“We don’t want to retire into poverty because we don’t have Social Security. So this is all most teachers have,” said “The end result we hope will be the saving of our retirement.”

WKU

Three people who have dedicated their lives to educating others have been selected to be inducted into the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame.

A statement from Western Kentucky University, which houses the hall, says the current or former teachers selected are Opal T. Sibert, Ron Skillern and Joe Westerfield. All three will be inducted during a ceremony on March 8 in Frankfort.

The statement says Sibert was an influential educator for 30 years in Laurel County before retiring in 1986 and was known for her persistence.

Westerfield taught history and government in Daviess County schools for 33 years before retiring in 2002 and was known for his enthusiasm.

Skillern, who is still teaching social studies after a 30-year career in Bowling Green and Warren County schools, has been described by former students as a great motivator.

Kentucky’s troubled pension systems continue their downward slide. Plans covering teachers and state employees lost $1.8 billion this year, bringing the total unfunded liability to more than $32 billion.

David Eager, interim executive director of KRS, addressed the Public Pension Oversight Board this week.  Co-Chairman Joe Bowen, a state senator from Owensboro, says the news isn’t all bad.

"What folks need to understand is that we have seven retirement systems that are publicly funded, and there's actually only one that you would consider to be in dire straits," Bowen told WKU Public Radio.

That pension plan is the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, or KERS, which has only 16 percent of the funds needed to pay the benefits of future retirees. That makes it among the worst-funded public pension plans in the country.

Other retirement plans covering teachers, judges, and lawmakers are in much better shape.

Wikimedia Commons

President-elect Donald Trump has named Elaine Chao to be secretary of the Department of Transportation. Chao previously served as secretary of the Labor Department under President George W. Bush and is married to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell.

The position could be prominent in the first months of the new administration, when Trump has said he will make a major infrastructure proposal, including $1 trillion for roads, bridges and other public transportation projects.

Chao met with Trump last week in Trump Tower, at which time they “conversed about labor and transportation issues” according to the president-elect’s transition team. She was a member of Trump’s Asian Pacific Advisory Council during his campaign.

Chao is the first Asian-American appointed to a U.S. president’s cabinet; she was the only cabinet official to serve with President George W. Bush during all eight years of his tenure.

During her time as secretary of the Labor Department, Chao updated the rules that designate which workers are eligible for overtime pay, and tightened financial reporting requirements for unions.

WKU

The Western Kentucky University presidential search committee is meeting in closed session Thursday and Friday in Nashville.

The group is considering candidates to replace WKU President Gary Ransdell, who is retiring next summer after 20 years at the school.

The school has issued an agenda for the meeting saying that the search committee will meet in closed session at the Nashville Airport Marriott to discuss applicants for the presidential position.

Kentucky law allows the search committee to conduct the hiring process behind closed doors,without members of the public or media present.

Some WKU employees have asked the search committee to conduct open meetings, and allow members of the community to meet with finalists before a decision is made.

Flickr/Creative Commons

More than 8,500 people with expanded Medicaid coverage got breast cancer screenings in May and June of this year. And more people covered under the expansion received dental, diabetes, Hepatitis C and colorectal cancer screenings.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

In a news release, foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler said one of the benefits of getting more people covered is that they can take advantage of preventive services “that can lead to improved health and lower health care costs in the long run.”

“That positive trend is what we’re seeing in Kentucky in terms of breast and colorectal cancer screenings, preventive dental services and diabetes and Hepatitis C screenings for Kentuckians with low incomes,” Chandler said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid in 2014 to childless adults earning up to around $15,000 a year. Gov. Matt Bevin submitted a proposal to the federal government earlier this year to trim back benefits like dental and vision.

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