Lisa Autry


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 federal government is making a bigger investment in the fight against heroin. 

Kentucky and other Appalachian states will share in a $2.5 million grant aimed at reducing the trafficking, distribution, and use of heroin. 

The Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is one of five regional HIDTAs which help federal, state, and local authorities coordinate drug enforcement operations. 

According to Director Michael Botticelli in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the fight has shifted from prescription pills to heroin in many parts of the country.

"We have seen a leveling off of overdoeses related to prescription drugs, but what has been challenging is the dramatic increase in both heroin use and heroin overdoses," said Botticelli on Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency law enforcement efforts are crucial to the fight against heroin which is hitting the commonwealth particularly hard.

"I have no doubt that this new funding will enhance law enforcement’s ability to fight heroin in some of the areas, such as Kentucky, that have seen communities and families ravaged because of this drug," McConnell said in a statement.  "In this era of limited federal resources, we must use these interagency partnerships to maximize our return from the federal dollars we spend to combat this epidemic."

In addition to the $2.5 million federal grant, the Appalachia HIDTA will also receive nearly $400,000 to be used for programs to help prevent drug abuse in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Brian Rideout

At 9:00 p.m. on a recent Thursday, Henderson residents Brian Rideout and Jonathan Dickson are headed out on the Ohio River.  The men are on the hunt for Asian carp which Rideout had never heard of until about five years ago when some friends invited him to go bow fishing. 

"The first time they took me out, in 30 minutes, we’d already seen over a hundred fish that were over 30 pounds," said Rideout.

Asian carp aren’t supposed to be here.  Farmers brought them to the U.S. in the 1970s for algae control in their ponds, but the species eventually escaped into the Mississippi River and its tributaries. 

Asian carp have become a real menace.  Rideout says the fish are reproducing at alarming rates.  One large adult has the ability to produce up to one million eggs a year.

"The thing that’s so unique about these fish is how quickly they populate," Rideout stated.  "The fish have spread tremendously from all the tributaries around the Mississippi River basin to right here in Henderson where we have more than we know what to do with.”

Asian carp also eat too much and that threatens native fish, such as crappy, blue gill, and catfish.

"These type of fish go after, as we’re told by marine biologists, the plankton in the water, zoo plankton and phyto plankton, and that’s what the smaller, domestic fish feed off of," explained Rideout.

The fish can consume up to 25 percent of their weight a day.  Asian carp also don’t have a natural predator.

Mammoth Cave National Park is raising concerns about a proposed pipeline that would stretch along a 256-mile path through Kentucky.  Kinder Morgan’s plan to re-purpose a natural gas pipeline has created controversy. 

The 70-year-old pipeline would carry natural gas liquids, and Mammoth Cave officials worry about a spill.  Bobby Carson is the park’s chief of science and resource management.

"There's a potential if the liquids get loose and get into our cave ecosystem, it can impact the groundwater and cave biota such as the Kentucky Cave Shrimp that live underground," Carson told WKU Public Radio.

Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead recently sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed project.  She made several requests, including a list of all potential chemicals that could be moved through the pipeline. 

Kinder Morgan has said it will examine the pipeline closely, make upgrades where needed, and thoroughly test it before returning it to service.

Republicans leaders in Kentucky will vote later this month on a proposal to change the state’s presidential primary to a caucus. 

State law prohibits a candidate from appearing on the ballot for more than one office. The change would allow Rand Paul to run for president and for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in 2016. 

Warren County Republican Party Chairman Scott Lasley helped write the proposal that would let Kentucky Republicans to hold a presidential caucus in early March.  He says the move to a caucus is not about giving Rand Paul special treatment.

"When we have a presidential primary in May, it generally doesn't attract any attention, and so the real logic for doing this is to become relevant in the nomination process," Lasley told WKU Public Radio.  "There's a few people who might be voting either for or against it strictly based on how they feel about Rand Paul, but I think most members of the central committee will approach it as what's best for the party."

Lasley says if going to a caucus brings several presidential contenders to Kentucky to campaign, then the change will be worthwhile. 

The proposal would not just apply to the 2016 election.  It gives party leaders the option of holding presidential caucuses in future years, as well.  Despite the cost involved and concerns over absentee and military voting, Lasley says a caucus next year is feasible. 

The state Republican Party’s central committee will vote on the proposal on August 22.

Efforts are underway to make Elizabethtown the ninth Kentucky city with a fairness ordinance.

The city council will hear a presentation later this month from the Fairness Campaign. Director Chris Hartman says a similar effort failed three years ago, but he’s still optimistic.

"Often times it is a tough road to convince elected officials to pick up what they imagine is a controversial issue," Hartman said.  "It's a different city council than the one in place in 2012 so we expect the response might be different now."

The ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accomodations based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Midway became the most recent city to approve a fairness ordinance in June.

Kentucky News Network

Ahead of Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, a top ally to U.S. Senator Rand Paul has announced he’s taking a leave of absence from Paul's super PAC. 

Jesse Benton, who headed America's Liberty, is under federal indictment for his alleged role in a bribery scheme. 

Benton’s indictment has implications in a statewide race in Kentucky.   Benton was serving as campaign manager for Mike Harmon, the Republican nominee for State Auditor.  Harmon is a state representative from Danville who is challenging incumbent State Auditor Adam Edelen. 

In a statement issued to WKU Public Radio, Harmon said while he knew of the accusations against Benton before he hired him, he did not expect Benton to be indicted. 

Representative Harmon said keeping him on the campaign would only serve as a distraction, so he asked Benton to resign. 

"Jesse has agreed to step completely away from the campaign until such time he can fully resolve this issue," stated Harmon.  "I wish Jesse the best of luck both for this issue and his future.  We will certainly keep him in our prayers."

Benton is charged conspiring to buy the support of a former Iowa state senator during Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.


U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will be among the ten Republican presidential candidates who will take the stage Thursday night in their first debate ahead of the 2016 election. 

Scott Lasley is a political scientist at WKU and chairman of the Warren County Republican Party.  He says the debate will allow Paul to differentiate himself from his fellow White House contenders, especially on foreign policy.

"The one risk he does run is the more he differentiates himself from more mainstream Republicans, he's got to make sure he doesn't drift into Ron Paul land," Lasley told WKU Public Radio.

Many think of his father as an isolationist, but Rand Paul has said he wants to be known as the candidate who thinks of war as the last resort. 

Professor Lasley says Paul might also use criminal justice reform as a distinction between him and the other Republicans on stage. 

The first GOP debate of the 2016 presidential race isn’t expected to have major influence on Paul’s campaign, but if he performs really well, Lasley says it could help bring in large fundraising dollars, which he has struggled to attract.

Both sides of the right-to-work controversy say a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Louisville was fair. 

U.S. District Judge David Hale heard arguments on whether local governments can pass right-to-work laws.  A group of labor unions sued Hardin County after magistrates there approved an ordinance earlier this year. 

In the courtroom was Bill Londrigan, head of the Kentucky AFLI-CIO.  He argues right-to-work laws cripple unions.

"Right to work laws lead to lower wages for workers across the board and we feel that is very poor public policy to be promoting laws or statutes that undermine workers' ability to have a good wage and good standard of living," Londrigan told WKU Public Radio.

Also present at the hearing was Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute which has been encouraging counties to pass local right-to-work laws.

"The opponents want to say that doing this will create confusion and mass problems while we know what will happen is it will give individual workers more freedom over whether they join a union and pay dues or not," Waters commented.

Twelve Kentucky counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances.  Others are waiting to see how the court case is settled. 

A ruling is expected in the fall, and regardless of which side wins, appeals are expected.

Lisa Autry

A right-to-work lawsuit against Hardin County will be heard Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. 

Attorney Buddy Cutler is representing nine labor unions that filed the federal lawsuit.

"Our main argument is that under the National Labor Relations Act, only states, and not counties or cities have the right to pass so-called right-to-work ordinances," Cutler told WKU Public Radio.

Attorney Jason Nemes is co-counsel for Hardin County where magistrates passed a local right-to-work law in January. 

Nemes argues the National Labor Relations Act leaves local governments free to act on right-to-work laws.

"When Congress passes a statute that says states may or may not do something, that includes political subdivisions, and in Kentucky, that would include counties," Nemes added.

After years of stalled efforts to pass statewide legislation, twelve Kentucky counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances which allow employees to work in union businesses without paying union dues. 

A ruling on the lawsuit against Hardin County is expected in the fall.

Nelson County Sheriff's Office

Today marks one month since a Bardstown mother of five went missing.  Thirty-five-year-old Crystal Rogers’ car was found with a flat tire on the Bluegrass Parkway in Nelson County.  Her keys, purse, and cell phone were still inside. 

Her mother Sherry Ballard says the search is exhausting but she's not giving up hope.

"Getting out there searching every day, it's hot, it's tiring, and you get discouraged because you don't find anything," Ballard told WKU Public Radio.  "It gets unbearable sometimes but we have to keep looking."

Rogers was last seen on her boyfriend’s family farm on July 3.  The farm has been searched, as well as a nearby lake. 

The boyfriend, Brooks Houck with whom she has a child, took a lie detector test but the results were inconclusive.  He maintains he had nothing to do with her disappearance.