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
1:51 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

OCTC Kicks Off Fundraising for Industrial Education Center

A fund drive is underway to raise $4.5 million for a construction project at Owensboro Community and Technical College. 

A capital campaign kicked off Monday to finance a new 50,000-square-foot skilled trades center.  Once completed, the school will move its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning program from the downtown campus and its welding program from the southeastern campus to the skilled trades center on the main campus. 

OCTC President Jim Klauber told WKU Public Radio that the facility is important because it will educate the region’s future workers.

"About 90 percent of our graduates are people who were born here and are going to stay here, and so that is very important to the economic health of the Daviess County region, but also the surrounding counties," said Dr. Klauber.  Some of our sister colleges do not offer some of the technical trade  programs that we do, and we also do workforce training for those areas, as well."

The Messenger-Inquirer reports OCTC received $9 million in state funding for the $13.5 million project through bonds that will be paid off with an $8-per-credit-hour student fee.  Of the $4.5 million left to raise, the Owensboro City Commission and Daviess County Fiscal Court have each pledged $1 million toward the project. 

Dr. Klauber hopes to wrap up fundraising by the end of this year and open the center in 2017.

Regional
3:50 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Kentucky Attorney General Warns Consumers of IRS Phone Scam

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers of a phone scam circulating through the commonwealth. 

The callers claim to be representatives or officers with the Internal Revenue Service and tell victims they owe money to the IRS.  Communications Director Alison Martin in the Kentucky Attorney General's Office told WKU Public Radio that she received one of the calls.

"I knew it was a scam, but I wanted to find out more information, so when I called the hotline number, the person identified himself  as 'Officer Daniel,' Martin explained.  "I went on to say  that I was an employee of the Office of Attorney General and I knew he was operating a scam and we would be turning over the information to the Federal Trade Commission for investigation.  That's about as far as the call went with me, but I know of several other people who have reported similar calls to our office."

The scammers leave voice messages stating the victim must take care of a “time-sensitive matter" and return the call, or the IRS will take legal action.  The calls have originated from the 415 and 202 area codes. 

“If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a representative from the IRS who is threatening to take legal action against you, that is a strong indicator that it’s not really the IRS,” Attorney General Conway said in a news release.  “Additionally, when the IRS first contacts a taxpayer, they do so via postal mail, not by phone.”

Consumers are also encouraged to watch out for fake emails that look like legitimate IRS correspondence.

Health
10:52 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Amid New FDA Warnings, Kentucky Lawmaker Wants Minors Banned from Tanning Salons

Like cigarettes, tanning beds will soon come with a black box warning that the products should not be used by minors.  But a Kentucky lawmaker says the warnings won’t be enough to keep teenagers out of the tanning beds. 

Henderson Representative David Watkins sponsored legislation this year to prohibit anyone under 18 from using tanning beds.  The retired physician says dermatologists are seeing a rise in skin cancer among teens.

"It seems like the younger skin is more sensitive.  If we can keep the kids out before 18 then the chances of getting skin cancer are reduced some," suggests Watkins.  "It also gives time for their thinking to mature and realize there is a significant risk to tanning beds."

Representative Watkins' legislation failed to clear the Kentucky General Assembly this year, but he will offer it again next year. 

Studies have shown that tanning beds are dangerous because of their emission of ultraviolet rays.  New federal regulations announced last month by the FDA will change the risk of indoor tanning from low to moderate. 

Kentucky currently requires signed parental consent before teens can use tanning beds.

Agriculture
2:27 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Bowling Green Woman Aims to Become First Female to Head Kentucky Agriculture Department

Jean-Marie Lawson-Spann
Credit jean-marieforkyag.com

Jean-Marie Lawson-Spann is on a mission to become Kentucky’s first female agriculture commissioner. 

The Bowling Green Democrat announced her 2015 candidacy in Frankfort Wednesday and is making a series of stops across the state in the coming days. 

At the WKU Ag Expo Center Thursday, Lawson appeared alongside former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith who called her "the right person at the right time to move Kentucky agriculture forward."

The 36-year-old Lawson-Spann is a marketing executive whose family owned a farm equipment business for decades. 

"I had direct responsibility for marketing and business development," she explained.  "I traveled the commonwealth finding ways to grow our family's businesses and I want to bring these same marketing and business talents to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture."

Lawson-Spann is also the host of a local radio show focused on agriculture.  If elected, she pledged to create and expand markets for Kentucky farmers and continue efforts toward allowing farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes.

"I want to make one thing perfectly clear," stated Lawson-Spann.  I'm not running against anyone.  I'm running for the office of Commissioner of Agriculture for the commonwealth of Kentucky."

First-term Agriculture Commissioner James Comer could seek re-election, though he’s also considering a run for the Republican nomination for governor next year. 

Regional
3:43 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Kentucky Gay Marriage Appeal Part of Nationwide Trend

A WKU professor says when an appeals court takes up Kentucky’s case over gay marriage, it will be a “historic showdown.” 

Earlier this year, a federal judge struck down part of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 6 as the day it will consider Kentucky’s appeal, as well as similar cases in Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan. 

"There's a total of 31 states where there are cases involving marriage equality pending, and that number correlates to the number of states that have same-sex marriage bans, so every single state that has a ban has a case in federal court right now," says WKU legal and constitutional historian Dr. Patty Minter.

Legal experts say hearing all the cases in one day is unusual, but not unprecedented.  It's unclear whether the three-judge panel will issue a individual rulings for each case or a blanket ruling, but there are two issues at hand, including the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages and whether state-level marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Arguments were held in the 4th Circuit in Virginia in May and the 10th Circuit in Denver in April. Rulings in those cases are expected to be issued before Kentucky's case is heard. 

Dr. Minter says a clear trend has been set since last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"There has not been a single decision that went against the idea that marriage is a fundamental right for all people," adds Minter.

Ultimately, the losing sides in each case will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Politics
8:53 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Beshear to Tout Kentucky's Health Exchange in Washington

Governor Steve Beshear travels to Washington Tuesday to share Kentucky’s experience with implementing the Affordable Care Act. 

The two-term Democratic governor will serve as a panelist at a conference sponsored by Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group that works to increase the number of Americans with health care coverage. 

More than 400,000 uninsured Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid or a private insurance plan on Kynect, the state’s online health exchange.  Before sign-ups began last October, the state had identified some 600,000 without coverage.

"When we hit 300,000 it just blew our minds and we're going to keep right on going," said Beshear.  "It will take us a year or two or three probably to find everybody around the state that needs this and qualifies for it, but we've had tremendous success so far."

An NBC News-Marist poll taken in May showed more Kentuckians than not had a favorable view of Kynect.  But when asked about Obamacare, more respondents had an unfavorable than favorable view of it.

Regional
5:00 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Kentucky Military Members Offered Free Museum Admission

The Muhammad Ali Center, alongside Interstate 64 on Louisville's riverfront, is one of many Kentucky museums offering free admission to active military members and their families.
Credit Wikipedia

Throughout the summer, more than a dozen museums in Kentucky are offering free admission to active duty military members and their families as part of the Blue Star Museums initiative. 

The Department of Defense in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and thousands of museums nationwide began the initiative five years ago as a military appreciation effort aimed at connecting military families to cultural resources in communities where they have moved or are based. 

"One of the things I think is great about the program is that if you have someone in your family who is serving out of the country, this might be an opportunity to go somewhere and experience something maybe that you haven't before, and it's kind of therapeutic in the absence of a loved one," says Communications Director Emily Moses with the Kentucky Arts Council.

The following museums are offering free admission through Labor Day, Sept. 1:

Bowling Green

Kentucky Museum

Eloise B. Houchens Center

Historic Railpark and Train Museum

Covington

Behringer-Crawford Museum

Lexington

Aviation Museum of Kentucky

Louisville

Frazier History Museum

Historic Locust Grove

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft

Muhammad Ali Center

Maysville

Kentucky Gateway Museum Center

Morganfield

James D. Veatch Camp Breckenridge Museum & Arts Center

Owensboro

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Owensboro Museum of Science and History

Paducah

River Discovery Center

Paris

Hopewell Museum

Prestonsburg

East Kentucky Science Center

Regional
5:00 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Case of Former Barren County Sheriff Goes Before Appeals Court

Former Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton may learn this week if he will remain a free man or report to prison.  A federal appeals court will decide whether to  uphold witness tampering convictions against him. 

Eaton two other officers went on trial last year in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.  They were accused of violating the civil rights of a suspect who claimed he was beaten while in handcuffs. 

His co-defendants were acquitted on all charges, but Eaton was found guilty on two federal counts of witness tampering, related to accusations that he directed two deputies to write false incident reports to the FBI. 

Eaton was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley allowed him to remain free while his conviction was under appeal. 

The former Barren County sheriff is seeking to have his convictions overturned or be granted a new trial.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case on Thursday.

Regional
3:19 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Federal Funding Uncertain for Kentucky Road Projects

Road construction projects in Kentucky and the rest of the country will be in jeopardy if Congress doesn’t find a way to replenish the national Highway Trust Fund. 

The fund, which reimburses states for transportation costs, is expected to dry up by late summer.  As a precaution, Transportation Cabinet Spokesman Chuck Wolfe says Kentucky has delayed the start of some projects.

"We had about $195 million worth of contracting work that we would have advertised for bids last month, but did not do so," comments Wolfe.

The Highway Trust Fund has always been funded by the federal gasoline tax, but Congress hasn’t raised the tax since 1993.  Inflation has increased the cost of construction and cars have become more fuel efficient, resulting in shortfalls in the fund.

Wolfe says in the past Congress has tapped into other sources of taxpayer dollars, but has been reluctant in doing so. 

Regional
1:04 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Bowling Green Aviation Enthusiasts Wait for Big Reveal of NASA Jet

The tail of the restored T-38 Talon is shown while parked inside a hangar at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport. The full reveal will come Saturday.
Credit Dan Cherry

An aircraft that played a key role in America’s “Space Race” is preparing to go on display at Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park. 

The supersonic jet, called a T-38 Talon, was used by NASA for training exercises before being retired in 2011. 

“Every man to walk on the moon has flown this T-38," AHP President Jim Wright said in a news release.  "The pedigree of this aircraft is  just phenomenal.”

The now-restored jet was flown by the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts, including Kentucky’s own Terry Willcutt.  The Logan County native and WKU graduate will be on hand for the plane’s reveal this Saturday at the annual Hanger Party, a fundraiser for the Aviation Heritage Park.

"It's going to make a tremendous exhibit for Aviation Heritage Park,  Executive Vice President Dan Cherry told WKU Public Radio.  "It's smaller than the others we have out there, but it's got tremendous curb appeal.  It's really an attractive airplane."

The jet was found in the Arizona desert in March.  It had been sent to storage at an Air Force base in Tucson.

Cockpit restoration on the T-38 Talon will continue over the summer before the storied aircraft takes its place as the fifth addition to the Aviation Heritage Park on Three Springs Road.

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