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 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.

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.  

In a meeting Tuesday, the Bowling Green International Center and its community partners agreed to begin accepting 40 Syrian refugees in October.  The resettlement has drawn the ire of some locals who are worried about the threat of terrorism. 

"Many of our leaders and citizens of Bowling Green are not comfortable with the Obama administration's assertion that the federal government can confidently vet refugees from this part of the world," said Bowling Green City Commissioner Melinda Hill.

Immigrants relocating to the United States must complete a 14-step vetting process, according to Albert MBanfu, executive director of the Kentucky International Center.

"The fear is real," MBanfu told WKU Public Radio.  "At the same time, we cannot allow fear to overcome the best we have in us as Americans."

Mbanfu added that any Syrian wanting to harm the U.S. would likely not come through the refugee program.  Instead, they would likely arrive with a visitor’s visa that doesn’t require background checks. 

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

The just-concluded legislative session contains a major victory for Daviess County.  

The final budget agreement includes funding to create a Family Court. District and circuit judges currently handle family issues.  

John Minton, Jr. has been advocating for the judgeship since becoming Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2008.  He says the goal is to keep family cases before the same judge.

"It's possible under the system without Family Court for a family to have issues in different places before different judges with different outcomes, so Family Court allows us to process all the issues around families in one place.

Family judges preside over cases such as divorce, child custody, adoptions, and domestic violence.  Daviess County is the largest county in the state without a Family Court judge.

Once the law becomes effective in mid-July, Governor Bevin will appoint someone to serve as Daviess County Family Court Judge until the position is up for election in November.

Grant Short

An Owensboro man who hopes to replace Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator says lawmakers need to do more to strengthen working-class families. 

Grant Short is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Republican incumbent Rand Paul. 

In Bowling Green on Wednesday, Short talked about his Family Values Plan that calls for child care subsidies, federal sick days, and universal Pre-K, among other things.  Short added that he has a plan to pay for it all.

"I've high-balled this at $1.8 billion to implement over ten years," Short told WKU Public Radio.  "The way you pay for it is by subsidizing human beings the same way as subsidized global oil companies.  We subsidize them on a rate of a trillion dollars, so I think we can find one-tenth of that to subsidize the American family who is struggling."

Flickr/Creative Commons/401kcalculator.org

Federal authorities say they have recently prosecuted a number of tax preparers in Kentucky who falsified returns.  During a news conference in Louisville Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky John Kuhn, said it’s important that the public guard against dishonest preparers.

"Taxpayers have to remain diligent when they work with return preparers," emphasized Kuhn.  "Taxpayers remain responsible for the contents of their returns."

Two Logan County tax preparers, Tara L. Mitchell and Mechelle Blankenship, were recently charged with falsely claiming education credits for taxpayers who were not entitled to them. 

Kuhn explained that some preparers who charge clients a percentage of their tax refund intentionally prepare false returns to increase their clients’ refund and their own fees.

A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year.  Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. 

The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky.  Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early.  Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill.  She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year.

"I've traveled the state and people feel it's something that we should already have," Grimes stated.  "Much like online voter registration, it's something they expect."

The Kentucky County Clerk’s Association opposed the bill.  Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates said the group feels expanded early voting would be a burden for county clerks with small staffs.

Lisa Autry

One-third of eligible Kentuckians are not registered to vote, but the state’s chief election officer hopes to change that with online voter registration. 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says more than 15,000 Kentuckians have logged on to GoVoteKY.com to register or update their registration since launching three weeks ago. 

Speaking at Western Kentucky University Thursday, Grimes said online registration has several benefits.

"As other states have experienced, it will help us increase the accuracy of our voter registration rolls and offer the convenience that the voters have demanded, and allow us to reach those Kentuckians who aren't yet registered," Grimes explained.  "The accessibility is a great factor."

Eligible voters previously had to visit their county clerk’s office or mail a voter registration application.

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Mark Perlstein/Feature Photo Service

Even though it’s late in the season, the number of flu cases is on the rise in Kentucky.  State health experts are still encouraging vaccination.

For the ninth week in a row, the flu activity level is widespread, meaning that at least half of the state’s regions are reporting an increase in cases of the flu.  The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.  Increased flu activity began later this season than usual in Kentucky.  Due to the late peak in the season, both in Kentucky and nationally, increased flu activity is anticipated to continue well into May.

Teresa Casey, a registered nurse at the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green, says people should think of others when they consider getting the vaccine.

"You may not decide to get the flu vaccine because you never get sick, but think about the people you are around, and if you did get the flu, who you would pass that on to," stated Casey.

WKU

The student body president at Western Kentucky University says recent cuts to higher education will be detrimental to the state’s public colleges and universities, but for now, he thinks WKU is weathering a storm that could become more severe. 

After House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a budget compromise, Governor Matt Bevin issued an executive order to cut higher education funding by 4.5% before the end of this fiscal year.  For WKU, that amounts to more than $3.3 million. 

Jay Todd Richey, president of the Student Government Association, fears a trend is developing in higher education.

"A cut like this from the governor does nothing to ease my fear that we're facing a privatization of higher education in this country," Richey told WKU Public Radio.

Richey says he agrees with President Ransdell’s decision to tap into the school’s reserve fund to make up for the cut. 

The junior from Glasgow says he’s concerned about the school’s long-term financial stability, citing bond debt and stagnant enrollment.  He hopes future budget cuts are not offset by tuition increases.

The Kentucky House and Senate remain at odds over whether to cut higher education funding even more in the next two-year budget.

A bill that is expected to be signed by Governor Matt Bevin will open some Kentucky courts to family and juvenile proceedings. 

The House and Senate approved legislation this session that would allow the public access to family court in cases involving child abuse, neglect, or dependency. 

Kentucky Youth Advocates Director Terry Brooks has been pushing for more transparency for several years.

"There have been many tragedies that have beset the commonwealth around child welfare where abuse and neglect happen, and fatalities result," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "There's always been, whether it's from the press, advocates, or the legal community, a certain doubt as to what really goes on or the inside scoop on the child welfare system."

The measure would allow a certain number of counties to open their courts to the public under a pilot project. 

Supporters believe it will hold judges, lawyers, and social workers more accountable.  However, public defenders don’t support access to cases in which juvenile are charged with crimes.  They argue it would negatively affect the rehabilitation of young offenders.

An automotive supplier has announced plans to locate in Nelson County and create more than 200 jobs. 

Thai Summit will build a $110 million facility in Bardstown, making it the manufacturer’s first location in Kentucky. 

“Kentucky’s auto industry directly employs nearly 90,000 people and constitutes a major part of our economy," said Governor Matt Bevin.  "The addition of Thai Summit speaks to our continuing momentum and the benefits of location and existing customer base that Kentucky offers."

The company plans to begin construction in May on the 220,000-square-foot facility in the Nelson County Industrial Park.  Once the first phase of construction is completed at the end of this year, Thai Summit will begin delivering stamped and welded aluminum assemblies to the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

Kentucky News Network

A case of vandalism in southeastern Kentucky is being investigated as a hate crime. 

Someone vandalized a sign outside the Laurel County African American Heritage Center in London by spray-painting K-K-K and 1488, which is a code sometimes used by white supremacists.

Detective Sergeant Gary Proffitt with the London Police Department says the community is shocked and disturbed by the crime.

"I've been a police officer for 16 years, and something at this level is something that I have not seen," Proffitt told WKU Public Radio.

The center's CEO, Wayne Riley, opened the building in 2004 in an abandoned church he attended as a youth and said he will not be intimidated by the crime.

City police say they're investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, with help from the FBI.

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