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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Lisa Autry

A dormitory on the WKU campus remains without power after a high voltage cable failed Tuesday, initially impacting four buildings. 

Students living in Pearce-Ford Tower remain displaced with some of them setting up camp at the Downing Student Union.  Freshman Ashley Hilgore says her preparations for the winter storm were made in vain.

"The worst thing is that we all went out and bought all this food preparing for the snow storm and now it's all spoiled because there's no power," Hilgore tells WKU Public Radio.

As temperatures over the next couple of days plummet below zero, Thompson says she’s just thankful for a warm place to stay.   She has a blanket spread on the floor with a few essentials like her textbooks, laptop and phone.  Like Hilgore, Freshman Courtney Thompson traveled lightly.

"The elevators are still out at PFT and I live on the 14th floor.  Everything we wanted to bring had to be carried up and down the stairs," says Thompson.  "I've just been sleeping with a blanket and pillow on the floor."

Repair work to PFT is expected to be complete by late Thursday.  Meanwhile, 24-hour visitation is in place for all residence halls to allow students to stay with friends on campus.

U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie of Kentucky says he supports U.S. military action against ISIS. 

The Bowling Green Republican says he is ready to debate President Obama’s proposal to authorize the use of military force against the terrorist group.  Guthrie, however, says sending ground troops would be premature.

"I think the people in the Mid East are being affected by it too, as Jordan well knows," Guthrie told WKU Public Radio.  "I think it's a threat to us as a country, as well, but those directly affected by it need to send troops to fight.  I think if we jump in with ours, they'll step back."

Congressman Guthrie says the threat posed by ISIS is just as serious as the threat once posed by Al-Qaeda. 

Lawmakers will hold hearings in advance of approving the president’s request to authorize the use military force against ISIS.  Guthrie says the AUMF must provide strong enough authority for the president to takeany actions necessary to destroy ISIS. 

The last AUMF was issued in 2001 against those responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Lisa Autry

Butler County is joining the growing list of Kentucky counties passing or considering right-to-work laws. 

On a vote of 4-1, the fiscal court voted gave preliminary approval to a local ordinance this week.  Butler County Judge-Executive David Fields said the measure wasn’t a vote against unions.

"I don't think anyone on our fiscal court voted for it to be against a union," Fields told WKU Public Radio.  "They were advised that this was something we needed to do to help get industry in here.  I think that was the total thing they looked at on the vote."

The vote came despite a lawsuit against Hardin County for passing a similar right- to-work law, which makes it illegal for employers to require their workers to join a labor union.  A final vote on the Butler County ordinance is scheduled for February 23. 

Butler joins Logan, Adair, Whitley, and Rockcastle counties in passing ordinances on first reading.  Six counties have so far taken final votes on right-to-work laws.  They include Warren, Simpson, Todd, Fulton, Hardin and Cumberland counties.

An automotive supplier in Christian County is expanding operations and increasing its workforce by a third. 

Douglas Autotech Corporation plans to create 115 jobs over the next three years.  The Hopkinsville plant opened in 1995 and has a current workforce of 230 people. 

"The automotive industry is a key component of our economy, and Douglas Autotech adds to the strength and success of the industry in the state," said Governor Steve Beshear in a news release.

The company, which produces automotive controls and steering columns, is planning to invest more than $14 million in new equipment for the plant. 

Douglas Autotech was preliminarily approved for up to $3 million in state tax incentives.

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The Owensboro Convention Center is just over a year old now.  The 170,000-square-foot facility opened on January 29th of 2014. 

Manager Dean Dennis said the first full year of operation was a successful one as the convention center welcomed more than 300 events, 27 conventions, and 173,000 guests.

"We tracked over 5,000 hotel room nights for that 12-month period and the estimated direct spending associated with that was a little over a million dollars," Dennis told WKU Public Radio.  "We really try to chase the multi-day event business that generates hotel room nights because we know that's where the greatest economic impact comes from."

Dennis said convention bookings exceeded expectations in the first year.  The one area that fell below projections was the consumer show market.

The Owensboro Convention Center overlooks the Ohio River and is located on the old Executive Inn site.  Dennis said the center already has 15 conventions booked for this year.  He hopes this spring’s opening of the New Holiday Inn will attract larger groups.

Following a major cyber-attack on the nation’s second-largest insurer, WKU is informing its employees that their personal information could be compromised. 

Hackers broke into an Anthem health insurance database storing information for about 80 million people. 

Human Resources Director Tony Glisson says about 2,300 WKU employees currently have Anthem coverage, though more could be impacted. 

"If it affects us, it could affect people who have been previously employed here and also had Anthem coverage," Glisson told WKU Public Radio.  "We've had Anthem since January 1, 2003 and so  if it should go back that far, that could potentially affect a broader range of employees."

The university’s human resources and information technology divisions are working with Anthem to better understand the impact on its members.  In the meantime, the insurer has created a website, www.anthemfacts.com, for members to get more information on the cyber-attack. 

While state lawmakers debate heroin legislation, a new poll finds 11% of Kentuckians have family members or friends who have suffered because of the drug.  That’s a two percent jump from 2013. 

The rate is much higher in northern Kentucky at 26%.  The poll was taken by The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.  CEO Susan Zepeda encourages the General Assembly to pass heroin legislation this session.

"What this tells us is there's been a rise in heroin use," noted Zepeda.  "At the same time, prior legislation has contributed to the decline we're seeing in prescription drug abuse."

Prescription drug abuse in Kentucky has been on the decline since 2011.  That’s when lawmakers approved legislation cracking down on pain clinic and mandating that doctors use a prescription drug monitoring program. 

Lisa Autry

When you drive around Owensboro, you’re likely to get on the Wendell H. Ford Expressway, but talk to just about anyone and you’ll find his legacy runs much deeper in this community.

“He was like your favorite uncle,” recalls Fred Reeves, a former president of the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.  “He was very personable, very humorous, and you always knew if you had an issue, you could call the senator and he would give that issue his attention.”

Despite his years living in Frankfort and Washington, Owensboro was always home to the former governor and U.S. Senator.  Wendell Ford held the city and its people close to his heart.  Fred Reeves remembers Ford for his compassion.

“I’ll never forget the day he called me and told me about a young lady, a single mom who had lost her job, and he asked me if I could help her find a job,” explains Reeves.  ‘How many senators would personally call you, dial the number themselves, and ask you to do something for an individual citizen who wasn’t an important person, someone who just had a need?’  That’s the kind of individual he was.”

Nearly a quarter of Kentucky’s population is now covered by Medicaid, thanks largely to the state’s embrace of the Affordable Care Act.

While fully funded by the federal government for the first three years, the state will have to start bearing a small share of the burden in 2017. Governor Steve Beshear maintains an expansion was the right thing to do.

"A match starts kicking in and it works its way up to a 90\10 match," explains Beshear.  "The feds in the end will be paying 90 percent of the cost and the state picks up 10 percent.  That's a lot better than the current Medicaid program which is 80\20."

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services will issue a report in a few weeks,which is expected to re-ignite the debate whether the state should have expanded its Medicaid rolls and how the state will pay for the new enrollees.

All of Kentucky’s 173 public school districts have approved policies to increase the dropout age from 16 to 18. 

The General Assembly passed a law in 2013 giving school districts the option of raising the dropout age. Once 55 percent of districts did so, it would trigger a four-year deadline for everyone else to raise the age.  Democratic Governor Steve Beshear said districts beat that deadline by one year.

"What we've done is send a message," said Beshear in a news conference Thursday.  "We've sent a message to the kids, their parents, and communities that education matters and that we care about these children."

All but seven public school districts will have the new policy in place this fall.  It will take effect for the rest in the 2017-18 school year. 

The Kentucky Department of Education provided each district with a $10,000 grant to help implement the higher dropout age.

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