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

Flickr/Creative Commons/Donald West

More than four million U.S. workers will become eligible for overtime pay under new federal regulations, but some business groups oppose the changes. 

Salaried employees earning $47,476 or less a year must be paid time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours a week.  The previous threshold was $23,660. 

Kate Shanks, director of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, says thousands of Kentucky workers could see themselves return to hourly pay and companies would face millions of dollars in added costs.

"It is something that would impact both private sector employers or for-profit employers, but it could also affect non-profit organizations and educational institutions," Shanks told WKU Public Radio.  "The affect in Kentucky could be fairly widespread."

The state Chamber fears that medium and small businesses would likely bear the most financial burden.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Chris Yunker

Economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis say the nation continues a modest recovery from the Great Recession.  The group held a regional economic briefing Thursday at Western Kentucky University. 

Economists says slow is the new normal for growth in the gross domestic product.  Kevin Kliesen is a business economist and research officer at the Fed.

"You have very strong job growth," Kliesen stated.  "The unemployment rate is low, somewhere around the natural rate of employment.  Wage growth is picking up and consumer spending still looks pretty good."

The nation has seen brisk auto sales, solid gains in construction, and stronger growth in the services sector of the economy.  However, two areas remain disappointing.  Labor productivity growth is weak, and business capital spending has been soft. 

Still, in the near-term outlook, the economy is expected to grow by around two percent this year.  While modest increases are likely, long-term interest rates are expected to remain at historically low levels.

Lisa Autry

The Bowling Green Police Department is preparing to outfit its officers with body cameras. 

In a presentation to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club Wednesday, Chief Doug Hawkins said agencies that already use body cameras have seen a reduction in complaints against officers.

"If you know everything we're doing is being recorded, you tend to behave a little better and so does the police officer.  Not that we have a lot of complaints, but we think this will mitigate complaints," Hawkins told the audience. "When a citizen has a justifiable complaint, we're going to capture that, as well."

Hawkins said the department is investing in body cameras now because prices have dropped and the technology has improved. 

Bowling Green Police plan to purchase 95 body cameras at a cost of nearly $160,000. 

The cameras will be deployed by the end of the year.

Lisa Autry

The last commercial flight from Bowling Green was 44 years ago, but that’s about to change. 

The Bowling Green-Warren County regional airport announced Tuesday that Contour Airlines will begin offering service to Atlanta and Destin, Florida. 

Airport Manager Rob Barnett says both business and leisure travelers will benefit.

"The corporate traveler will truly benefit because of the cost savings and time savings through Atlanta, and of course, we're all going to benefit from the Destin flight because we all like to go to Destin at a reasonable cost and keep ourselves from being in a car 16 hours round trip," Barnett told WKU Public Radio.

The flights are expected to start the first week of August.  Tennessee-based Contour will offer service year-round, seven days a week to Atlanta.  Seasonal flights to Destin will be available once a week from April to October.

Lisa Autry

On the eve of Kentucky’s primary election, Hillary Clinton courted voters in southern Kentucky.  The Democratic presidential front-runner held a rally in Bowling Green Monday. 

Clinton spoke as though she was trying to mend fences following her controversial statement about putting coal miners out of work in the pursuit of clean energy. 

She touted herself as the only candidate with a plan to revitalize coal country which includes putting more money into research to determine how the nation can continue to use coal.

"We do have to transition, but we need to take coal country, coal miners, and their families, and not leave them behind," Clinton stated.

The Appalachian region has been hit hard economically by the decline in the coal industry. 

Clinton has already been tested in one Appalachian state.  Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders easily won West Virginia’s Democratic primary last week.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The leader of Bowling Green city schools says the district will adhere to federal guidance concerning transgender students while at the same time keeping  all students safe. 

In a letter on Friday to public schools across the nation, the U.S. Department of Education said federal law requires them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their chosen identity. 

Superintendent Gary Fields says those issues are handled on an individual basis between students, their parents, and school administrators.

"We have to have those discussions to see where students are at that time, based on whether it's a younger student or an older student.  What is best for one child may not be best for other children," Fields told WKU Public Radio.  "We make decisions that are in the best interests of those students and all of our students."

Lisa Autry

When Kentucky voters head to the polls Tuesday, May 17, for the sstate's primary election, they’ll help choose the Democratic presidential nominee. 

While Hillary Clinton is ahead in the delegate count, she doesn’t have enough to lock up the nomination yet. Both Clinton and Sanders are battling for Kentucky’s 60 delegates at stake. 

On a weekday afternoon, Michelle Thomas and a few of her girlfriends get together at Thomas’ Bowling Green home, which has turned into a makeshift campaign headquarters for Hillary Clinton.

“We have yard signs and some bumper stickers and buttons," Thomas said.

The ladies were phone banking, trying to drum up support for Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s primary.  It was the middle of the day and Janet Gouvas has been getting lots of answering machines.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is providing some additional money to test rape kits that have languished in the state crime lab. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced his office is providing $4.5 million to the Kentucky State Police crime lab to buy additional equipment and hire more workers to conduct the testing.  The money comes from unrelated lawsuit settlements won by the state.

Beshear said the kits are more than a box on a dusty shelf.

"They represent victims who have had the courage to not only report, but to undergo one of the most thorough physical, forensics examinations that can be asked for, and what have we done?  We've locked that courage in a box and let in languish on a shelf, but no more," stated Beshear.

An audit last year found that more than 3,000 kits in the commonwealth had gone untested due to a lack of funding and staff. 

Flickr/Creative Commons/World Bank Photo Collection

Bowling Green is preparing to welcome Syrian refugees later this year who are fleeing their country’s civil war.  The Warren County-based Kentucky International Center has agreed to resettle 40 Syrians, but the decision is raising concerns in the local community.

Someone trying to allay those fears is Bashar Mourad of Owensboro.  The physician, who is Muslim, immigrated to Chicago in 1989 on a student exchange visa.  He later on worked in Houston before settling in rural western Kentucky.

"I was actually concerned when I first moved," Mourad recalls.  "I didn’t know how I would be received, but people were so nice to us.”

Mourad did what thousands of fellow Syrians are trying to do now, although under different circumstances.  Syrians today are fleeing their war-torn country in search of a better life.  Some are hoping to find one in Bowling Green, a city that already is home to a large immigrant population.

WKU Athletics

A former football standout from Western Kentucky University has pleaded not guilty to assault and other charges stemming from an altercation outside a club in Bowling Green.  Tyler Higbee made a brief appearance in Warren Circuit Court Thursday for arraignment.

Higbee was drafted last week by the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.  Defense attorney Brian Lowder says Higbee’s legal woes will not keep him from participating in the team's rookie mini-camp this weekend.

"The court is generally flexible with respect to letting people earn a living and that's what we expect him to be doing," Lowder told WKU Public Radio.  "I would anticipate we will be accommodated with regard to him earning a living and playing football."

Higbee is charged with assault, evading police, and public intoxication.  Higbee has denied using racial slurs before hitting Nawaf Alsaleh, which witnesses said preceded the fight last month.  Alsaleh received a concussion and brain hemorrhage, and has since been released from the hospital.  Higbee claims he acted in self-defense.

Higbee is due back in court on June 17 for a status hearing.

The president of Western Kentucky University says building services attendants will get “pretty similar” benefits when their work is transferred to a private contractor. 

In a budget-cutting move announced this week, around 200 BSAs will work for Sodexo after July 31.  Dr. Gary Ransdell took questions from them and other employees at a forum Thursday afternoon. 

Under the change, employees will get fewer sick days. That’s a concern for Paul Barbour, whose wife works as a BSA.  Barbour says she’s taken a lot of time off because of ailments related to a car accident. Barbour fears the Sodexo will put productivity over people.

"Her main concern is that she's going to lose her job because Sodexo, being a private contract company, will not be as lenient with her as Western was because they're more into getting things done than being nice to employees," Barbour told WKU Public Radio.

Sodexo is also expected to offer less paid vacation time around Christmas time.  Employees will get three days off in December compared to the 10 days they were given by WKU.  

The cost of a college education in Kentucky continues to inch upward.  Meeting in Bowling Green Tuesday, the Council on Postsecondary Education approved tuition ceilings for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The state’s two research schools, the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville, will be allowed to raise their in-state undergraduate rates up to 5 percent each for the 2016-17 academic year. 

For the state’s six comprehensive universities, the increases vary from school to school.  The CPE approved a 4.65 percent hike for Western Kentucky University; 4.95 percent for Northern Kentucky; and 5.4 percent for Morehead State. 

Tuition costs can rise at Eastern Kentucky University by 5.3 percent; 10.4 percent at Murray State; and 5.8 percent at Kentucky State.

The CPE is allowing the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to hike tuition by $9 per credit hour.

Alltech staff

A craft brewery with ties to Western Kentucky University is now producing beer in Bowling Green. 

Lexington-based brewing and distilling company Alltech has opened a production line in the WKU Center for Research and Development. 

College Heights Brewing gives students hands-on experience while earning a certificate in brewing operations.  Dr. Andrew McMichael, assistant dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters at WKU, says the school tailored a certification program based on conversations with existing Kentucky brewers and distillers.

Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

Kentucky schools could provide another tool in the state’s fight against heroin. 

The pharmaceutical company AdaptPharma is donating the antidote Narcan, also known as Naloxone, to Kentucky schools. 

"We understand the crucial role schools can play to change the course of the opioid overdose epidemic by working with students and families," said Thomas Duddy, Executive Director of Communications for AdaptPharma.

The free kits will contain a nasal spray that can reverse heroin overdoses.  Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, says the program could help reduce the number of young people killed by heroin.

"It's still largely focused on the adult population, but we are seeing younger and younger adults involved in the use of heroin," Ingram told WKU Public Radio.  "It's just another tool in the tool belt as public health, law enforcement, and a host of others trying to minimize the harm caused by this epidemic."

Each Kentucky school district can decide whether or not it wants to participate in the program, which will begin this fall.

A western Kentucky business is bringing industrial hemp to market. 

Kentucky Hemp Works has opened a processing facility in Christian County.  Owner Katie Moyer says the small, family-run business is taking hemp seed and turning it into oil that can be used in a number of products, including salves and lip balms. 

"Quite frankly, a lot of farmers aren't going to want to put seeds in the ground if they don't think there's a market for it," Moyer told WKU Public Radio.  "We need to develop those markets and show farmers and elected officials that there is a market for these things."

According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the state has 35 processors participating in a pilot program allowed under the federal farm bill.  Kentucky Hemp Works is the first to locate in western Kentucky.

Kentucky began growing hemp in 2014 for research purposes after a decades-long federal ban.

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