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.

Pages

Politics
2:28 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Former Kentucky Pension Trustee Sounding Alarm on Funding Shortfalls Facing KERS, KTRS

The cover of Chris Tobe's book, Kentucky Fried Pensions

Chris Tobe's interview with WKU Public Radio about the harsh reality facing Kentucky's pension programs

Chris Tobe is a man who is currently playing the role of “bearer of bad news.”

He worked as a trustee with the Kentucky Retirement Systems from 2008 to 2012, where he got an up-close-and-personal look at how the state’s pension systems were being underfunded. Tobe is also the author of the book Kentucky Fried Pensions, and he makes presentations around the state detailing the crisis facing the commonwealth’s pension programs.

While Gov. Steve Beshear and state lawmakers from both parties have hailed pension reform efforts passed in 2013, Tobe says it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to fix the underfunding issue.

Compared to the rest of the nation, Tobe believes “Kentucky is probably second worst to Illinois” when it comes to the health of its public pension programs.

Read more
Politics
4:17 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Tea Party Groups Offering to Send Activists to Kentucky Ahead of GOP Senate Primary

Matt Bevin, left, spoke with WKU Public Radio's Lisa Autry during a campaign stop in Bowling Green.
Credit Abbey Oldham

Tea Party groups from across the south and midwest are pledging support in the effort to defeat Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

The five-term Kentucky incumbent is facing a primary challenge from Louisville businessman and Tea Party activist Matt Bevin.

United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra told WKU Public Radio activists from several states have promised to help Bevin win this spring's primary.

“We have had commitments now from Tea Party and liberty groups from Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and as far away as Florida, who have said, ‘We are going to send folks to Kentucky, at our expense, to help you on the ground get out the vote for Matt Bevin'", the Hardin County resident said.

Hofstra admits McConnell has gained many Republican allies at the local level in Kentucky during his nearly 30 years in office.

Read more
Agriculture
1:11 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Comer to Announce Details on Kentucky's Pilot Hemp Projects Monday

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer

Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner is moving forward with the creation of industrial hemp pilot projects in the commonwealth.

The announcement was expected after President Obama signed a Farm Bill into law last week that allows hemp to be grown in the U.S. for research purposes. Staff members in the offices of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and  Attorney General Jack Conway are reviewing the bill’s language regarding pilot projects to make sure whatever happens in Kentucky is within federal guidelines.

Comer, a farmer from Monroe County, says he plans to provide more details on Kentucky's pilot hemp projects at an announcement Feb. 17. He says the projects will be based throughout different parts of the state and will have research focuses with different university affiliations.

Comer wants U.S.  law enforcement agencies to allow certain hemp seeds for the pilot project to be imported. That’s one of the first steps necessary to get any form of hemp farming off the ground in this country.

According to a news release from Commissioner Comer’s office, Attorney General Conway has pledged to work for a waiver from federal drug laws that would eventually allow for the expansion of industrial hemp production for commercial purposes.

Politics
1:48 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Bill Clinton to Campaign in Kentucky for Alison Lundergan Grimes

Bill Clinton is coming to Kentucky to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Former President Bill Clinton is coming to the Bluegrass State to campaign on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The Grimes campaign says Clinton will appear in Louisville February 25. No further details have so far been released about the visit. Clinton is the last Democrat to carry Kentucky in a presidential election.

Democrats are making no secret that Kentucky’s Senate race is one of the party’s top election priorities in 2014, and have indicated they are willing to pour money and resources into the effort to unseat Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate Minority Leader.

McConnell is facing a Republican primary challenge by Louisville businessman and Tea Party activist Matt Bevin.

Education
12:52 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Ransdell: WKU Not Expecting Big Tuition Hike to Counteract Proposed State Funding Cuts

WKU President Gary Ransdell
Credit WKU

The President of WKU says he’s not counting on a big tuition increase to help offset a proposed cut in state funding for universities.

Dr. Gary Ransdell says he believes the Council on Postsecondary Education will cap the next round of potential tuition increases at about three percent.

That’s the increase the CPE set last April for in-state undergraduate students beginning this fall. President Ransdell told WKU Public Radio that it’s probably not realistic to expect anything more than that.

“Even if the CPE would allow a higher number, we’re not likely to go there,” Dr. Ransdell said during a break in Friday’s Board of Regents meeting. “So we’re going to have a modest tuition increase. Every year there’s going to be a tuition increase. It will simply cover our fixed-cost increases. These other items are going to have to be funded in some other way—probably through redirection of funds within our budget.”

The proposed budget announced by Governor Beshear this week includes a 2.5 percent spending reduction for state universities, which amounts to a loss of $1.8 million for WKU in fiscal year 2015.

Kentucky minimum wage increase?

A proposed increase in Kentucky’s minimum wage would add an estimated $419,000 to WKU's current payroll obligations. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring legislation that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, up from the current $7.25 an hour.

Read more
Bourbon
9:50 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Sees Record Number of Visitors in 2013

Four Roses is one of the "heritage" bourbon distilleries in Kentucky that saw a big jump in visitors last year.
Credit Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s bourbon distillers are celebrating a record number of visitors in 2013.

The eight facilities that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail saw a 12 percent jump in visits last year, with nearly 572,000 visitors touring facilities such as Four Roses,  Maker’s Mark, and the recently-opened Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail director Adam Johnson  attributes part of the tourism draw to the efforts distillers have made to improve their facilities.

“Name the distillery, and they’ve put some serious money in expanding that experience for their visitors," Johnson told WKU Public Radio. "Woodford Reserve, for example—they’re working hard on their place and hope to be open in the spring with a much more expanded experience, just like Jim Beam has done, just like Maker’s Mark has done, just as Wild Turkey has done.”

Johnson says the rising popularity of bourbon and other Kentucky-made spirits has also trickled down to the commonwealth’s growing list of smaller craft distilleries. Nearly 62,000 visits were made last year to members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, including Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, and Limestone Branch in Lebanon.

Here is a list of the member distilleries that are a part of the Bourbon Trail and Craft Tours:

Read more
Politics/Education
1:45 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Thompson: Hoping for Increased State Funding for Primary Education, Capital Projects

Lawmakers are in Frankfort Tuesday to hear Gov. Beshear give his 2014 budget address.
Credit Kevin Willis

A Daviess County lawmaker believes one of the few bright spots in Tuesday's budget address by Governor Beshear could be restored funding for primary education.

Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio he's hoping the governor will announce a boost for the statewide education funding formula known as SEEK, or "Support Education Excellence in Kentucky".

"It's really being funded at the 2009 level," Rep. Thompson said. "And then the strands of education--things like professional development and afterschool services and I.T. Those things have been dramatically cut some 30 to 40 percent over the last four or five years."

Thompson thinks there is also a chance the governor will announce funding for some capital projects around the state.

"Technology buildings, science buildings, education buildings--those types of things that are about reinvesting in communities that not only provide construction jobs, but also provide opportunities for workforce training and skill development," the Philpot Democrat said.

Read more
Politics
12:56 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Rand Paul: Changes Announced by Obama Don't Go Far Enough

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul listens to President Obama's speech on NSA changes in a breakroom at WKU PBS in Bowling Green.
Credit Sen. Paul's Office

Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator said President Obama isn’t going far enough with changing the country’s data collection policy.

Bowling Green Republican Rand Paul told WKU Public Radio he believes the privacy of American citizens will continue to be violated despite changes announced Friday during a speech by the President.

“Well, to me it kinda sounded like, you know, if you like your privacy, you can keep it, except for the fact that he’s going to still continue to collect your phone records, your emails, your texts, and probably your credit card records. So, while on the surface it sounded like he is concerned with our privacy, I didn’t really hear any policy changes that he’s going to quit collecting all of our records,” said Sen. Paul.

In his much-anticipated address Friday, President Obama said he will require intelligence agencies to receive permission from a secret court before tapping into vast amounts of phone data, and will eventually move that information out of the hands of the government.

Read more
Sports
9:22 am
Wed January 15, 2014

WKU Preparing for Possible NCAA Changes to Athlete Compensation

Some NCAA schools want to be able to award stipends that would cover costs not currently paid for by athletic scholarships.
Credit WKU Athletics

With the largest collegiate athletic conferences pushing to allow extra financial benefits for players, smaller schools like WKU are wondering how such changes would impact their bottom lines.

The issue of increasing compensation for college athletes is being discussed this week at an NCAA summit in San Diego. A group of high-profile conferences wants the ability to grant stipends that would pay for costs not covered by athletic scholarships.

NCAA President Mark Emmert recently said he believes such a stipend plan will soon become a reality.

WKU athletic director Todd Stewart says nothing is set in stone yet about how such stipends would be used.

Read more
Health
4:56 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Poll: Three in Ten Kentucky Adults Went Without Health Insurance in 2013

Interview with Susan Zepeda, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

An annual statewide poll shows that one-quarter of Kentucky adults are without health insurance.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. That group's President and CEO, Susan Zepeda, says an even higher number of adults in the commonwealth was without coverage for at least part of 2013.

"Three in ten Kentucky adults were uninsured at some point in the last 12 months, which really underscores the need for helping people get access to insurance," Dr. Zepeda told WKU Public Radio.

Zepeda says the recent poll is important because it sets a baseline for how many Kentuckians have health insurance, and from what sources, ahead of the broader impacts of the federal Affordable Care Act.

That baseline, Zepeda says, will help policy analysts determine how much effect the changes related to the ACA are having on individuals and states.

Read more

Pages