Lisa Autry

Reporter/Producer

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

Ways To Connect

The Kentucky Department of Education has released the names of the five candidates under consideration for commissioner. The list includes one candidate from Kentucky. 

  • Buddy Berry, superintendent of Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence, Kentucky.
  • Kathleen Airhart, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Tennessee Department of Education 
  • Christopher Koch, interim president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  • Lloyd Martin, chief executive officer for Universal School Solutions, an education consultancy firm
  • Stephen Pruitt, senior vice president at Achieve, Inc., an independent, nonprofit education reform organization. 

The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Friday and Saturday in Lexington to conduct second interviews with each of the five candidates.

The new commissioner will replace current Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring next week.

The board has selected Associate Commissioner and General Counsel Kevin Brown to serve as interim commissioner starting Sept. 1 until a new commissioner can begin.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he will introduce a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling when the General Assembly convenes next year. 

Outgoing Governor Steve Beshear has pushed casinos as a way to generate revenue throughout his two terms in office. 

He blames the failed attempts on the Republican-led Kentucky Senate and infighting in the horse industry.

"Many in the horse industry want it limited only to racetracks and they're afraid free-standing casinos will somehow make the racetracks less profitable and there would be less people who would want to go to them," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.

Beshear is hopeful the question of whether to allow casinos will be placed on the ballot for voters to decide in November 2016.  Casino legislation must first clear the Kentucky House and Senate. 

Under Stumbo’s proposal, seven casinos could open statewide and 70 percent of proceeds would benefit education.  Twenty percent would go to the state retirement system, and the remaining 10 percent would go to racetracks.

Ami Brooks

An attorney from Logan County plans to challenge Democratic State Representative Martha Jane King. 

Republican Ami Brooks has filed a letter of intent to seek the 16th District House seat next year. 

"I think it's important for there to be a change of leadership in Frankfort," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "I think the Republican party has a good shot at taking the House this next term and I'd like to be a part of that."

Brooks, a proponent of a statewide right-to-work law, believes the cost of doing business in Kentucky is too high.

"I have an office in Tennessee and I see how things are conducted differently and how laws affect small businesses because I have a small business in both states," Brooks said.

Much of her work is devoted to juvenile and family law.  

Brooks is a Bowling Green native who has lived in Logan County for nearly 20 years.  

The 16th District seat covers Logan, Todd, and a portion of Warren County.

Guy Howie

When Guy Howie takes the reins of the Glasgow Police Department, it will be a homecoming of sorts. 

On Friday, Mayor Dick Doty picked Howie out of three finalists to lead the department. 

Howie spent nearly seven years as chief of the Hopkinsville Police Department before returning a year ago to the Ocala Police Department in Florida where he served 26 years in various roles. 

Howie told WKU Public Radio he plans to bring community policing to Glasgow.

"It doesn't mean you're soft on crime, but it means you're looking at crime from the community's point of view and what they see as issues," said Howie.  "I also believe in a data-driven approach toward looking at crime and allocating resources to what the data provides us."

Howie acknowledged he looks forward to leading smaller department, but said size is irrelevant.

“I’m sure there’s more crime in Ocala because we have a lot more people," added Howie.  "I’ve looked at the Glasgow crime statistics.  They have burglaries, thefts, drugs, and just recently, a shooting.  I’m sure per capita, it’s probably about the same, but I think Glasgow is a safer community."

Howie is a 35-year law enforcement veteran.  He’s expected to start his new duties around October 1.  His hiring still needs approval from the Glasgow City Council.

Clinton Lewis-WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says the university is at a crossroads in three areas: enrollment, state funding, and employee compensation. 

While noting many of the university’s achievements, Ransdell also outlined the school’s challenges to faculty and staff in his opening convocation Friday morning. 

Faced with an enrollment decline in the last couple of years, WKU is focusing more on recruitment and retention.  Dr. Ransdell said some of the efforts are beginning to pay off.

"As of this week, our first-time incoming student numbers are up slightly," Ransdell noted.  "Our part-time undergraduate numbers have stabilized, but our part-time graduate numbers are still tracking downward.  Our biggest challenge, however, is a 23 percent drop in continuing full-time freshmen."

Dr. Ransdell also addressed the continuing challenge of less state funding. 

"The last year Kentucky increased base funding for higher education was 2006," added Ransdell.  "By the time the 2016 budget is considered next spring, we will have suffered through a lost decade of state support for higher education."

President Ransdell said he will ask the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly to restore cuts to higher education and change the way funds are allocated to a performance-based model.  He said given the school’s growth and degree productivity, WKU would fare better in the next state budget.  He added that the increased funding would help pay for faculty\staff salary increases, which Ransdell called a top priority for next year.

The fall semester at WKU begins Monday. 

The federal government is making a bigger investment in the fight against heroin. 

Kentucky and other Appalachian states will share in a $2.5 million grant aimed at reducing the trafficking, distribution, and use of heroin. 

The Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is one of five regional HIDTAs which help federal, state, and local authorities coordinate drug enforcement operations. 

According to Director Michael Botticelli in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the fight has shifted from prescription pills to heroin in many parts of the country.

"We have seen a leveling off of overdoeses related to prescription drugs, but what has been challenging is the dramatic increase in both heroin use and heroin overdoses," said Botticelli on Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency law enforcement efforts are crucial to the fight against heroin which is hitting the commonwealth particularly hard.

"I have no doubt that this new funding will enhance law enforcement’s ability to fight heroin in some of the areas, such as Kentucky, that have seen communities and families ravaged because of this drug," McConnell said in a statement.  "In this era of limited federal resources, we must use these interagency partnerships to maximize our return from the federal dollars we spend to combat this epidemic."

In addition to the $2.5 million federal grant, the Appalachia HIDTA will also receive nearly $400,000 to be used for programs to help prevent drug abuse in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Brian Rideout

At 9:00 p.m. on a recent Thursday, Henderson residents Brian Rideout and Jonathan Dickson are headed out on the Ohio River.  The men are on the hunt for Asian carp which Rideout had never heard of until about five years ago when some friends invited him to go bow fishing. 

"The first time they took me out, in 30 minutes, we’d already seen over a hundred fish that were over 30 pounds," said Rideout.

Asian carp aren’t supposed to be here.  Farmers brought them to the U.S. in the 1970s for algae control in their ponds, but the species eventually escaped into the Mississippi River and its tributaries. 

Asian carp have become a real menace.  Rideout says the fish are reproducing at alarming rates.  One large adult has the ability to produce up to one million eggs a year.

"The thing that’s so unique about these fish is how quickly they populate," Rideout stated.  "The fish have spread tremendously from all the tributaries around the Mississippi River basin to right here in Henderson where we have more than we know what to do with.”

Asian carp also eat too much and that threatens native fish, such as crappy, blue gill, and catfish.

"These type of fish go after, as we’re told by marine biologists, the plankton in the water, zoo plankton and phyto plankton, and that’s what the smaller, domestic fish feed off of," explained Rideout.

The fish can consume up to 25 percent of their weight a day.  Asian carp also don’t have a natural predator.

Mammoth Cave National Park is raising concerns about a proposed pipeline that would stretch along a 256-mile path through Kentucky.  Kinder Morgan’s plan to re-purpose a natural gas pipeline has created controversy. 

The 70-year-old pipeline would carry natural gas liquids, and Mammoth Cave officials worry about a spill.  Bobby Carson is the park’s chief of science and resource management.

"There's a potential if the liquids get loose and get into our cave ecosystem, it can impact the groundwater and cave biota such as the Kentucky Cave Shrimp that live underground," Carson told WKU Public Radio.

Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead recently sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed project.  She made several requests, including a list of all potential chemicals that could be moved through the pipeline. 

Kinder Morgan has said it will examine the pipeline closely, make upgrades where needed, and thoroughly test it before returning it to service.

Republicans leaders in Kentucky will vote later this month on a proposal to change the state’s presidential primary to a caucus. 

State law prohibits a candidate from appearing on the ballot for more than one office. The change would allow Rand Paul to run for president and for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in 2016. 

Warren County Republican Party Chairman Scott Lasley helped write the proposal that would let Kentucky Republicans to hold a presidential caucus in early March.  He says the move to a caucus is not about giving Rand Paul special treatment.

"When we have a presidential primary in May, it generally doesn't attract any attention, and so the real logic for doing this is to become relevant in the nomination process," Lasley told WKU Public Radio.  "There's a few people who might be voting either for or against it strictly based on how they feel about Rand Paul, but I think most members of the central committee will approach it as what's best for the party."

Lasley says if going to a caucus brings several presidential contenders to Kentucky to campaign, then the change will be worthwhile. 

The proposal would not just apply to the 2016 election.  It gives party leaders the option of holding presidential caucuses in future years, as well.  Despite the cost involved and concerns over absentee and military voting, Lasley says a caucus next year is feasible. 

The state Republican Party’s central committee will vote on the proposal on August 22.

Efforts are underway to make Elizabethtown the ninth Kentucky city with a fairness ordinance.

The city council will hear a presentation later this month from the Fairness Campaign. Director Chris Hartman says a similar effort failed three years ago, but he’s still optimistic.

"Often times it is a tough road to convince elected officials to pick up what they imagine is a controversial issue," Hartman said.  "It's a different city council than the one in place in 2012 so we expect the response might be different now."

The ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accomodations based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Midway became the most recent city to approve a fairness ordinance in June.

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