Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production.  Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

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Agriculture
4:21 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Comer: Industrial Hemp Bill to Get Committee Hearing Wednesday

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Monday that an industrial hemp bill will get a hearing this week in the House Agriculture Committee.

Comer is a major supporter of industrial hemp, and has enlisted the backing of a bipartisan group of federal and state lawmakers. Comer met Monday with Rep. Tom McKee, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and secured from McKee a promise that Senate Bill 50 will get a committee vote Wednesday.

McKee effectively blocked the bill from progressing last week after he tried to get language added to the measure that would have mandated a study of hemp by University of Kentucky researchers. The move by McKee led to some hard feelings between him and hemp backers, but Comer says his meeting with McKee was a productive one, and that things appear to be smoothed over.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio Monday, Comer said he liked the bill's chances to pass the House Agriculture Committee Wednesday. And he says he's not worried about the face that House Speaker Greg Stumbo opposes the measure.

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Education
12:29 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

First Lady Jane Beshear Kicks of Literacy Celebration Week at WKU

Kentucky's 2013 Literacy Celebration Week is underway.

Kentucky's First Lady says new technology is offering young people new ways to access reading materials. Jane Beshear kicked off the 2013 Literacy Celebration Week Monday at WKU by speaking to an education class about the impact of reading on college readiness.

Mrs. Beshear says it doesn't matter if young people read books the old-fashioned way, or if they use an mobile electronic reader.

"I don't care how they read, as long as they read. We're in the technology age, so that's as engaging as anything. So if that's what it takes to get them involved, then I'm all for it."

After her visit to WKU, the Kentucky First Lady then toured the Housing Authority of Bowling Green to talk about how literacy growth can be incorporated into after-school programs.

Regional
4:00 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Owensboro Preparing to Host Former President Wednesday

A view inside the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center in Owensboro
Credit Wendell H. Ford GEC

Owensboro will be playing host this week to one of the most recognizable faces in Democratic politics. President Bill Clinton is attending a fundraiser to benefit a cause championed by an old friend.

President Clinton will be in Owensboro Wednesday to help raise money for the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center. The fundraiser at the Riverpark Performing Arts Center costs $1,000 a person, and includes a VIP reception with President Clinton and dinner.

In addition to serving as Kentucky Governor, Ford served in the U.S. Senate from 1974 to 1999, and was Democratic Whip the first six years of Clinton’s presidencies.

President Clinton has appeared in Daviess County before: in 2000, he presented an education award to Audubon Elementary School, and he campaigned at Kentucky Wesleyan College in 2008 on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

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Regional
8:50 am
Sat March 2, 2013

I-65 Southbound in Elizabethtown Re-Opened Following Wreck

Update at 9:00 a.m.:

A Kentucky State Police dispatcher in Elizabethtown told WKU Public Radio all lanes of I-65 southbound in Hardin County have been re-opened following a Saturday morning wreck that involved a tractor trailer.

The tractor trailer lost control and went through a guardrail, striking several vehicles in the process.

There is no word yet on any injuries resulting from the accident.

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Business
4:08 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

U.S. Bank Expanding in Owensboro, Adding 332 New Jobs

U.S. Bank plans to expand its mortgage operations in Owensboro, adding a new facility and 332 jobs to its operations in Daviess County.

The bank’s investment, announced Friday afternoon, comes at a time of increased demand for mortgage services in the area, and represents a $15.2 million commitment. U.S. Bank is the fifth-largest bank in the country, and currently has 1,900 employees in Owensboro.

As part of the expansion, U.S. Bank has been given preliminary approval for $2.8 million dollars in tax incentives through the Kentucky Business Investment program.

Sports
1:09 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

WKU 2013 Football Schedule Features Games Against UK, Tennessee, and Navy

Credit WKU Athletics Media Relations

WKU has released its 2013 football schedule. Highlights include the opening game against Kentucky in Nashville, a home game versus Navy, and an early fall game at Louisiana-Monroe.

The Hilltoppers will open their first season under new head coach Bobby Petrino Aug. 31 against the UK Wildcats, a team WKU beat last season in overtime at Commonwealth Stadium.

A second SEC opponent follows the opener, with WKU traveling to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers Sept. 7. WKU's Sun Belt opener is in week three at South Alabama.

You can see the team's complete 2013 schedule here.

Economy
2:28 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

Mammoth Cave National Park Could See Loss of Seasonal Jobs, Delay in Ferry Opening

A view inside Mammoth Cave National Park
Credit U.S. Parks Service

The superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park says she's prepared to carry out the first cuts that would take place under sequestration. If Congress and the White House don't work out a deal by Friday, all national parks have been instructed to prepare for five-percent budget reductions.

"Those measures would include a variety of things, including not filling some permanent positions, such as the park electrician, and a variety of other seasonal positions," Sarah Craighead told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

The Barren County native says the first change the public would experience if sequestration happens would be a delay in the opening of Houchen's Ferry, which had been scheduled for March 10th. The ferry shuttles vehicles across the Green River near Brownsville.

Craighead says hiring will be delayed for at least 11 seasonal positions unless a deal to end the sequester happens soon. Some of those seasonal positions would be for cave guides this summer. The Grand Avenue and Snowball cave tours would also end unless a deal is reached.

Health
11:23 am
Wed February 27, 2013

One-Third of Child Deaths in Tennessee Were Preventable

New data released by the Tennessee Department of Health show that one-third of child fatalities in the state in 2011 could have been prevented. The list of preventable deaths includes those children that died by abuse, murder, drowning, suicide, and suffocation.

The Volunteer State’s annual report on child mortality comes at a sensitive time, as state lawmakers are scrutinizing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services for its role in investigating child abuse cases where the child later died.

The Tennessean reports children are more likely to die in the state before they reach their 18th birthday than in most other states, surpassing the national average of 52 deaths for every 100,000 children.

Still, Tennessee health officials also noted the 802 children who died in 2011 represent the lowest number of youth deaths reported in the state in five years.

Agriculture
3:52 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

CEO of Hemp Foods Company to Testify on Behalf of Kentucky Hemp Bill

The founder and CEO of a hemp foods company will appear Wednesday morning in Frankfort to speak on behalf of an industrial hemp bill. The measure—which has passed the Kentucky Senate—would set up a regulatory framework should federal laws criminalizing hemp be changed.

The House Agriculture and Small Business Committee will hear from Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and John Roulac, CEO of Nutiva, the fastest growing hemp foods company in the U.S.

Despite Republican support for the hemp bill, there appears to be too much Democratic opposition to the measure for it to pass this legislative session. Both Governor Steve Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo have said they are siding with Kentucky law enforcement groups that say legalizing hemp will make it too difficult to distinguish between the crop and marijuana.

Education
4:40 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Tennessee Has Biggest Improvement in High School Graduation Rate in Nation

A new report shows Tennessee with the fastest-improving high school graduation rate in the nation. The Tennessean reports Volunteer State education leaders hope to reach the 90 percent diploma threshold by 2020.

The report shows the Tennessee high school graduation rate has improved by 6.5 percentage points since 2001, with an average annual growth rate of 1.25 points between 2006 and 2010. During that time period, Tennessee improved at nearly double the national rate.

The report is the combined effort of the groups Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

In Tennessee, 80 percent of high school freshman say in school and graduate as seniors. That’s better than the national average of 78.2 percent.

Nationally, 200,000 more students received high school diplomas than in 2006, a trend driven by big gains in African-American and Hispanic graduation rates.

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