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. 

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Regional
12:20 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Warren County Government Approves History-Making Right-to-Work Law

Chip White (left) and Alton Haycraft of the Carpenters Local 175 in Louisville were in the audience as Warren County Fiscal Court approved a local right-to-work measure.
Credit Lisa Autry

Against the advice of Kentucky’s attorney general, Warren County Fiscal Court has passed a local right-to-work law, becoming the first county in the nation to do so.

In a 5-1 vote Friday morning, magistrates gave final approval to a measure that would allow private sector workers to choose whether to join a union and pay dues.  The atmosphere was tense as union members from all over the state packed into the courtroom.  An overflow crowd stood outside the chambers, many of them holding signs and wearing union garb.

"Right-to-work is right-to-work for less," said Alton Haycraft with the Carpenters Local 175 in Louisville.  "It's a right to lose your job and be fired for no reason."  Every right-to-work state last year reported a billion dollars or more in lost income taxes due to falling wages."

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan expressed disappointment after the meeting.

"It was a disrespectful thing they did to the workers of this community who work so hard to build cars and products here," Londrigan told WKU Public Radio.  "Why don't they go after the folks who are shipping our jobs overseas?  Why don't they talk about raising the minimum wage?  Why don't they talk about doing good things instead of interfering with the rights we have to collectively bargain with employers like General Motors?"

Supporters believe right-to-work laws make the state more competitive in attracting jobs.  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson spoke in favor of the ordinance before the vote was taken.

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Regional
2:14 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

As Kentucky Counties Pass Local Right-to-Work Laws, Opinions Differ on Their Legality

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether counties can legally pass right-to-work laws.  For now, the answer depends on who you ask. 

Professor Ariana Levinson teaches labor and employment law at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.  She believes local ordinances aren’t allowed under the National Labor Relations Act.

"It has an exemption in the act that allows states to pass right-to-work laws, but that exemption is strictly limited to states," Levinson told WKU Public Radio.  "It does not permit local sub-divisions like cities, counties, and municipalities to pass right-to-work laws."

Right-to-work supporters claim local measures are allowed under Kentucky's “County Home Rule,” passed by the General Assembly in 1978.  The law delegates the state’s authority to counties to pass laws for the protection and benefit of their citizens, and for the promotion of economic development. 

The Warren County Fiscal Court is expected to give final approval Friday to a local right-to-work law.  Simpson and Fulton counties will take similar votes by the end of the month.

Regional
5:23 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Union Leader: Local Right-to-Work Measures Unlawful

Warren County Fiscal Court is expected to give final approval to a local right-to- work law on Friday.  The measure passed by a 5-1 vote on first reading last week. 

One of the main critics is Eldon Renaud who heads the local United Autoworkers Union.   

"It forces unions to negotiate and handle grievances for people who don't even pay dues," said Renaud, president of the UAW Local 2164.  They're free riders."

Renaud maintains right-to-work laws only weaken unions, but supporters argue they spur economic development.  Simpson and Fulton counties have also recently given preliminary approval to right-to-work measures allowing private sector workers to choose whether to join a union and pay dues. 

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Regional
2:11 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Police Break Up Organized Crime Ring in Bowling Green, Other States

Federal, state, and local police have fractured a major drug-trafficking ring in and around Bowling Green. 

In a round-up dubbed "Operation Christmas Vacation," law enforcement officers set out Wednesday to arrest 19 individuals who are under indictment in Warren County on felony drug crimes.

The high-level offenders are charged with distributing cocaine, heroin, marijuana, prescription pills, and synthetic marijuana. 

Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron said the year-long investigation was conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies including federal, which provided a real advantage.

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Regional
3:21 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Simpson County on the Verge of Passing Local Right-to-Work Law

Simpson County has become the third Kentucky county to give preliminary approval to a right-to-work law. 

The Simpson County Fiscal Court voted unanimously Tuesday on a local ordinance that allows workers to decide whether to join a union and pay dues without fear of losing their job.  Simpson County borders Tennessee which has a right-to-work law.  For Judge-Executive Jim Henderson, it’s an economic development issue.

"It is perceived by many new and expanding businesses throughout the country that Kentucky is not as business-friendly because we don't have right to work," Henderson told WKU Public Radio.  "Whether it's real or perceived doesn't really matter because when those companies are looking at locating a plant somewhere in the country, many of them simply won't look at Kentucky."

Eldon Renaud, president of the United Auto Workers Union in Bowling Green, spoke out against the ordinance at the fiscal court meeting, arguing right-to-work laws drive down wages and benefits for employees.

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Politics
12:52 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Richards Seeks Return to Kentucky House Leadership

Kentucky State Representative Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green
Credit Jody Richards' Facebook

Veteran State Representative Jody Richards is aiming for a return to House leadership as Speaker Pro Tem.  The Bowling Green Democrat is among four others vying for the number two post. 

Richards, who spent 14 years as House Speaker, has been out of leadership since 2009, and says some things have changed since then.

"There are a lot of new members since that time and I'm having to talk to them about my style of leadership and what I can mean to our House of Representatives," Richards told WKU Public Radio.

Richards made history by becoming Kentucky's longest-serving House Speaker before he was defeated by current Speaker Greg Stumbo, but Richard says there are no hard feelings.

"The speaker and I have a very good relationship," he added.  "After all, we served in House leadership together for many years.  I think I have a good chance of winning."

Others running for Speaker Pro Tem included Representatives Jeff Greer of Brandenburg, Jim Glenn of Owensboro, Dennis Keane from Wilder, and Darryl Owens of Louisville. 

The Pro Tem position became vacant when Representative Larry Clark of Louisville announced he’s stepping aside from the post he’s held since 1993. 

Leadership elections will take place on January 6, the first day of the 2015 legislative session.

Health
2:39 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Deadline Approaching to Purchase Health Insurance on Kentucky's Exchange

An important deadline is just days away for Kentuckians needing health insurance. 

Although the second enrollment period on Kentucky’s health care exchange runs until February 15, residents must sign up for coverage by Monday in order to be covered when the new year begins. 

"If you wait until February 15th the soonest your effective date can be is March 1st," explains Kynect Executive Director Carrie Banahan.  "If you're wanting coverage by January 1st, you really need to enroll by Monday, December 15th."

More than 18,000 Kentuckians have been filed applications for private insurance or Medicaid since open enrollment began a month ago.  The first month of last year’s enrollment period resulted in 32,000 applications. 

"Keep in mind that last year we enrolled more than 400,000 people," adds Banahan.  "There was a lot of pent up demand among people who didn't have insurance coverage, and now a lot of folks do."

Most of the uninsured have gained coverage through an expansion of Medicaid. 

According to one poll, Kentucky's uninsured rate fell from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 in 2014.

Business
1:54 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Warren County Government Close to Approving Local Right-to-Work Law

One Kentucky county isn’t waiting on Frankfort to pass right-to-work legislation.

The Warren County Fiscal Court Thursday took the first of two votes required to approve a right-to-work ordinance.

The vote was 5-1 with Magistrate Tommy Hunt casting the lone “no” vote. 

The ordinance covers only private-sector workers, not teachers or other public employees.  A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for December 19.

According to the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Warren County would become the first county in the nation to adopt a local right-to-work law, which means workers would have the right to choose whether or not to join a union and pay dues  without jeopardizing their employment.

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Education
4:19 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Gender Neutral Restrooms Coming to WKU

WKU is preparing to add “all gender” restrooms to campus facilities in the coming months.  Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Richard Miller says the decision was made in response to the university’s changing demographics.

"You're going to have a very diverse group of students on any college or university campus, whether it's members of the LGBTQ community or members of our international community," Miller told WKU Public Radio.  "I think it's one of the responsibilities of an institution to try to address the needs of the various constituencies that they serve."

Dr. Miller stresses that the gender neutral restrooms will not be community restrooms.  They’ll be private, and as for signage, the university is planning to designate them as simply “restroom.”

Regional
3:13 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Western Kentucky County Could See Coal Jobs Cut in Half

A western Kentucky county could lose half of its coal-mining workforce in the next couple of months. 

Coal mining employs about 1,200 people in Union County, but that could change, according to a layoff notice issued by Patriot Coal Corporation. 

The company is warning that up to 670 workers could be laid off in February at the Highland mine on the Union-Henderson County border and at the Dodge Hill complex.

Union County Judge-executive Jody Jenkins says, unfortunately, the news is familiar.

"For the last 60 years, I guess, coal mining has been the life blood of this community, Jenkins told WKU Public Radio.  "Historically, we've had mine closures and layoffs, but it doesn't make it any easier."

Union County's unemployment rate in October was 4.8%.  The statewide rate was 6.2%.

Patriot emerged from bankruptcy reorganization a year ago and had earlier closed its mines in Henderson County.  In a news release, the company said low natural gas prices and tougher EPA regulations continue to drive down coal prices, resulting in operating losses at many mines.

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