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 governors of Indiana, Tennessee, and other states have recently issued executive orders allowing National Guard members to carry guns at places such as armories, recruiting centers, and training sites.

According to Kentucky National Guard Spokesman David Altom, the commonwealth has been proactive in protecting soldiers and airmen. He told WKU Public Radio that since 2013, state law has allowed members to carry guns as long as they have a concealed-carry permit.

"We issued a memorandum authorzing concealed carry of weapons on state facilities," Altom explained.  "The purpose of that is to give soldiers the option of responding in case of something like what happened in Chattanooga."

Following the shooting deaths of five servicemen in Tennessee last week, State Representative Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, is urging Governor Beshear to issue an executive order allowing all National Guard members to be armed now instead of having to wait to obtain a permit. 

Beshear has said the order is unnecessary, adding that guardsmen are also able to carry weapons in state facilities and recruiting stations with approval from their commanding officer.

Two state lawmakers have pre-filed legislation for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly session that provides protections for anyone who removes a child from a locked car due to extreme heat. 

State Representative David Hale of Wellington says the legislation would treat people as Good Samaritans and give them civil immunity from damage done to a vehicle.

"In about the last 20 years, there's been over 700 children that have died in automobiles across the United States.  That's a terrible tragedy and we need to education people on the dangers of this."

The bill also encourages the Kentucky Department of Highway Safety to create an educational campaign called “Look Before You Lock” to focus on the importance of checking the backseat before exiting a vehicle. 

State Senator Danny Carroll of Paducah is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to gather input on a new five-year plan for higher education.  On Monday night, a meeting will take place at Somerset Community College. 

CPE President Bob King says affordability remains a key area of concern.  Because of higher tuition and tighter state funds, public universities now get more money from their students than from the state.

"Not that long ago, the state contribution to the universities on a per-student basis picked up about two-thirds of the cost of educating a student and tuition picked up about one-third," King told WKU Public Radio.  "That has completely reversed in about a ten-year period."

University presidents will lobby the General Assembly next year to increase higher education funding for the first time since 2008. 

Lawmakers will also be asked to switch to a performance funding model which would administer state funds based on the number of graduates or degrees that a school produces.

The remaining public meetings will be held from 6-8pm at these locations:

  • Monday, July 20: Harold Rogers Student Commons, Community Room, Somerset Community College, Somerset.
  • Tuesday, July 21: Collins Industry and Technology Center, Freed Curd Auditorium, Murray State University, Murray.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Rieveschel Digitorium, Griffin Hall 201, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Six state lawmakers are being tasked with finding solutions to Kentucky’s under-funded retirement system for public school teachers. 

Legislators debated a plan in this year’s General Assembly session that would have borrowed more than $3 billion in bonds to shore up KTRS. 

State Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro was among Republicans who objected to taking on more debt.

"Our opinion was that it was a huge risk to do this and if things didn't work out we stood the chance of jeopardizing the plan even further," Bowen said.

Senator Bowen is one of the appointees of the committee that will offer new recommendations to the governor by December 1.  The panel will have its first meeting on Friday. 

Bowen told WKU Public Radio that new money must be found to invest into KTRS and structural changes are required that will likely affect new hires.

"They're going to be looking at a new retirement plan," stated Bowen.  "We not talking about going from a defined benefit to a defined contribution.  That's never been part of the conversation, but what we are saying is that new hires will probably have to work longer."

Bowen says the KTRS work group will also have to address pension spiking and cost of living adjustments in order to bring a long-term impact to the pension system. 

KTRS, which covers about 120,000 active and retired members, has an unfunded liability of $14 billion.

City of Bowling Green

The mayor of Bowling Green says he is going to look at the hiring practices of every department in the city.  The decision follows notification of a Department of Justice investigation into the police department. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson will meet with a federal investigator in August, and by then, he hopes to have in place in place to examine every city department.  While the probe will be across the board, he says the city will not lower its standards to hire more minorities.

"We're going to aggressively recruit in those areas, but we will look for people who, in the motto of the police department, 'We hire for character but we train for skill,''' Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

Mayor Wilkerson says he will also push for hiring an affirmative action employee for the city who will actively recruit minorities. 

The changes come as the Department of Justice looks into whether the city discriminates against African Americans with respect to employment opportunities in the police department. 

According to the DOJ, the city should have more black officers based on its population.

Fort Knox is one of only three military posts to grow under the Army’s plan to reduce its ranks by 40,000 troops. 

Fort Knox was spared from any cuts, and will in fact, gain 67 soldiers. 

Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson said he stayed cautiously optimistic while waiting since last year for the Army’s decision.

"We had gotten good feedback from Washington and our congressional delegation about how Fort Knox was being viewed, and out letter-writing campaign where we submitted 14,000 letters was pretty impressive I think," Richardson told WKU Public Radio.

Under a worst-case scenario, Fort Knox could have lost 4,1000 soldiers and civilian workers. 

Richardson said it’s still important to tout the impact Fort Knox has on all of Kentucky as the Army continues to downsize and trim costs over the next two years.

Kentucky County Judge Executive Association

In the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, some county judge-executives in Kentucky have stopped presiding over marriages altogether rather than perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. 

John Settles, president of the Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, estimates about half of the state’s county leaders have turned away same-sex couples while the other half have not.

"One in particular said we all have sinned, even heterosexuals," Settles commented to WKU Public Radio.  "He figures that everyone he marries is a sinner anyway, and he can't discriminate between the sins."

As judge-executive of Washington County, Settles has performed about 350 marriages in his 16 years in office, but since the Supreme Court ruling, he has stopped the practice due to his religious beliefs. 

"I have a strong belief in the Bible as the word of God and I believe the Bible states that marriage is to be between one man and one woman," Settles states.  "It's my firm belief that that's the way it was intended to be from the very beginning."

While county clerks are bound by state law to issue marriage licenses, judge-executives are not required to perform marriage ceremonies.

On a 3-2 vote, the Owensboro City Commission has approved a measure that does away with primary elections for city offices.  Mayor Ron Payne says city primaries are unnecessary in non-partisan races.

"With a two-year city commission term, under the present system, you're elected one year and you're filing in January and starting to run again," Payne tells WKU Public Radio.  "You spend one year devoted to city business and the other year campaigning."

Opponents of the new Owensboro ordinance argue that primary elections allow candidates to interact more with voters. 

A state law that took effect in January allows cities to eliminate primaries. The law does not affect primaries for county, state, or federal offices.

Bowling Green voted last year to eliminate primary elections for city offices.

Nelson County Sheriff's Office

Police are investigating the disappearance of a Bardstown woman whose car was found abandoned on the Bluegrass Parkway.  Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly says 35-year-old Crystal Rogers hasn’t been seen or heard from since July 3.

"What made us alarmed is that her keys, purse, and phone were still inside the car and the car had a flat tire," Mattingly told WKU Public.  "It's also unusual for her not to have contact with her family."

The car, a maroon 2007 Chevy, was found Sunday off the westbound lanes of the Bluegrass Parkway at mile marker 14. 

Rogers is 35 years old, 5-foot-9, and 150 pounds with blonde shoulder-length hair. Anyone with information is asked to call the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office.

Two women are running this year for Kentucky’s second-highest office.  Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green is the lieutenant governor nominee on a Republican ticket headed by Matt Bevin. 

Hampton ran unsuccessfully for State Representative Jody Richard’s seat in 2014. 

Hampton touts her private sector experience and says she and Bevin will focus on making Kentucky a right-to-work state and addressing the state’s pension shortfall, which she believes threatens economic development.

"It could have a dampening effect on everything we do," Hampton told WKU Public Radio.  "Let's say we do everything else right.  We get our tax code revamped and we become a right-to-work state.  If a company is looking at our balance sheet and sees that we do not have a viable plan to address our $34 billion shortfall, they still may not come."

Hampton is a former businesswoman and Air Force veteran.  If elected, she would become Kentucky’s first African American statewide officeholder. 

On the Democratic side, State Representative Sannie Overly is on a ticket headed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

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