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

Clinton Lewis

Rick Stansbury is returning to Kentucky to coach basketball.  The Meade County native was introduced Monday afternoon as the next men’s basketball coach at Western Kentucky University. 

During a news conference, Stansbury said he did not have to be sold on WKU.

"There's so much tradition.  I understood that.  I know what this place about," remarked Stansbury.  "I know not where it's at, but where we're going to go with it.  It's not about me.  It's about all of us, and that first game we show up to this year, we want that arena packed, and we're going to put a team on that floor that you will be proud of."

Stansbury comes from Texas A&M where he served as an assistant coach.   Before that, he spent 14 seasons as Mississippi State’s head coach.  Under a four-year contract, Stansbury will be paid a base salary of $500,000 annually. 

He takes over for Ray Harper who resigned this month following the suspension of three players.  Stansbury said the three would not be returning to the team. 

Stansbury said he has a lot of respect for Harper and hopes he will continue to be a part of the basketball program at WKU.

Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky’s Civil War battlefields are in need of some spring cleaning. 

The Civil War Trust, a national non-profit, is looking for volunteers to help clean and restore ten landmarks in Kentucky on Saturday. 

"People do everything from picking up trash, lawn work, and minor repairs," said Meg Martin, communications manager for The Civil War Trust.  "They might clean signs, clear trails, things that will allow the sites to be better interpreted and provide better educational and recreational opportunities for the parks."

Walter Horne

A Daviess County man is getting an up close view of how Brussels is coping following this week’s terrorist attacks on the city’s airport and subway. 

Owensboro resident Walter Horne is in Brussels for job training.  He says he was in a meeting about 15 miles away when the explosions occurred.

"The people there with us were speaking Flemish or Dutch.  We didn't really understand what was being said," Horne told WKU Public Radio by phone.  "We could hear 'explosion.'  We understood that word, and then they told us what had happened."

Even though it was 2:00 a.m. in Kentucky, Horne said he immediately called family members to let them know he was safe. 

He describes the mood in Brussels as somber.  Police are out in greater numbers and there’s less night life on the streets.

More than 4,000 acres of hemp seed will go into the ground in Kentucky this spring.

Growers will oversee industrial hemp pilot projects for the third straight year. They hope the crop will eventually create jobs and marketing opportunities. 

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says the state must show the crop is viable by attracting not just farmers, but processors.

"We need to make sure we have processors who are willing to buy industrial hemp and turn it into a marketable product," Quarles told WKU Public Radio.  "If we can continue to show good faith progress on that front, it's going to make it easier to work with our federal delegation to de-couple it from its cousin one day."

Kentucky was a major hemp producer in the early 20th century, but the crop was later outlawed by the federal government because of its relation to marijuana. 

The 2014 farm bill approved by Congress gave states and universities permission to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. 

Hemp can be used in a wide range of products, including cosmetics, paper, clothing, and auto parts.

Kentucky’s education leaders are getting ready to develop a new accountability system and the public has a chance to offer suggestions. 

Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt is hosting town hall meetings across the state this month and next.  Pruitt says he wants an accountability system that's fair, reliable and easier to understand.

"We're not going to do away with testing and accountability, but I also want to look at school practices," Pruitt told WKU Public Radio.  "It's not okay for us to drop the arts.  It's not okay to not have access to career and technical programs or science and social studies.  What we want to do is build a system that looks at inputs, as well as outputs."

Congress recently re-authorized the Every Child Succeeds Act which shifts more of the responsibility for schools from the federal government to the state.  That includes how accountability is determined and how to define and improve low-performing schools.

Here's a schedule of upcoming town hall meetings in the WKU Public Radio listening area.  All meetings are 6:30-8:00pm, local time.

  • March 22, Campbellsville University-Gheens Recital Hall
  • March 29, Owensboro-Daviess County High School Auditorium
  • April 27, Bowling Green-GRREC Offices and Training Center
Flickr/Creative Commons/Floyd Wilde

Bowling Green could be the latest area of the state to build a veterans nursing home. 

Funding for the project was included in the budget approved this week by the Kentucky House. 

Some 40,000 veterans in the region would be served by a Bowling Green nursing home.  The closest one to them now is more than 100 miles away. 

Roger Miller, commander of the American Legion Post in Bowling Green, told WKU Public Radio that the 90-bed nursing home would fulfill a real need.

"It would mean a whole lot.  I'm 77 years old," said Miller.  "It would be a blessing to me and a lot of other people who are really needing one right now."

About 20 acres of land has already been donated for the facility at the Kentucky Transpark in Warren County.

johnwaynesmith.org

The embattled former director of a school for at-risk youth remains in the race for the Kentucky House of Representatives. 

John Wayne Smith of Warren County was convicted in federal court last month.  Smith is a Democrat from Smiths Grove who is challenging Brownsville Republican incumbent Michael Meredith.

Smith was found guilty of failing to report allegations that two teenage girls had been sexually abused by another staff member at the Bluegrass Challenge Academy where he served as the director.  The Fort Knox-based academy is a quasi-military school for students at-risk of not finishing high school. 

Smith will be sentenced May 19 and faces up to a year in prison and fines.  In an email to WKU Public Radio Wednesday, Smith said at this time, he remains in the contest.  House Republican leaders have called on him to exit the race before his sentencing.

LRC Public Information

The Kentucky House is expected to vote on its version of the state budget as early as Tuesday. 

In the six years Representative Michael Meredith has been in Frankfort, a budget has been passed by a Democratic governor and House.  The Brownsville Republican says this budget process is interesting to watch.

"This year will be really different because you have a Republican governor sending a budget to the House.  the House is going to have a totally different budget, I think, and send that to the Republican Senate that will do something totally different than the what the Democratic House did," Meredith told WKU Public Radio.  "I think the reconciliation through the conference committee process is going to be really interesting to see how that all works."

The House budget restores some of the cuts proposed by Governor Matt Bevin.  He wants to reallocate $650 million in government spending to address the state's pension obligations.

Lisa Autry

An Allen County could be sentenced to death if convicted in the death of a young girl last fall. 

Timothy Madden is charged with kidnapping, murder, rape, and sodomy in the death of seven-year-old Gabbi Doolin. 

Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Willis says he consulted with the girl’s family before reaching his decision to seek the death penalty. 

Madden’s defense attorney Travis Lock says he wasn’t caught off guard by the prosecutor’s decision.

"This was not a decision that was unanticipated by the defense.  We have known since day one the commonwealth would likely seek capital punishment," Lock told WKU Public Radio.  "What penalty the commonwealth elects to seek has little if any bearing on how the underlying case is defended.  What penalty the commonwealth elects to seek does not change the facts of the underlying allegations or the underlying charges in this indictment."

Doolin’s body was found in a creek behind Allen County-Scottsville High School after being reported missing during a youth football game last November.  Madden was arrested a week later.  Investigators say evidence recovered from the girl’s body matched Madden’s DNA.  The 38-year-old Madden maintains his innocence.

Kentucky State Police are investigating how two inmates from the Warren County Jail walked away from a work detail this week. 

Twenty-five-year-old Bates Cole was captured the same day, while 23-year-old Anthony Embry was taken into custody after a two-day search. 

Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode told WKU Public Radio that all inmates who work outside are considered low-risk offenders.

"Nobody can be on it that has assaultive-type charges. Nobody can be on it that has sexual-type charges. It has to be lower felonies such as child support, forgery, maybe DUI-4th, that kind of thing."

The inmates eligible for work release are serving a five-year sentence or less.  Cole was in jail for violating parole. Embry was also serving time for a parole violation, as well as charges of Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and Giving an Officer False Name or Address.

Asked how Embry was considered low-risk, Jailer Strode said the Kentucky Department of Corrections determines what classification level inmates are assigned.

Kentucky Secretary of State's Office

Kentucky’s Secretary of State says lawmakers have a way to increase voter participation statewide. 

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke in Frankfort Monday in support of early voting legislation. 

Under a bill proposed by Secretary Grimes, Kentucky voters could cast early in-person ballots without an excuse.  Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early.  Grimes points to the success of no-excuse early voting in other states. 

"Tennessee has early voting without a qualifying excuse, and in their presidential primary they held just six days ago, they saw a record number of Tennesseans coming out to participate early in the election," Grimes told WKU Public Radio. 

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett testified alongside Grimes to a House committee.  Hargett said his state also saw more people voting early during the 2012 presidential election than on election day.

The head of the Kentucky Republican Party is calling Saturday’s presidential caucus a “real success," but turnout was only slightly higher at the caucus compared to the last GOP presidential primary. 

Eighteen percent of registered Republicans voted in the presidential caucus, compared to 16 percent in the 2012 primary.   While there were fears the caucus could go un-noticed, Kentucky GOP Executive Director Mike Biagi said he’s proud of the turnout. 

"A hundred counties saw an increase in the number of voters who participated in the caucus compared to the 2012 presidential primary," Biagi told WKU Public Radio.  "In fact, 42 counties increased their participation over 100 percent since 2012."

Biagi says the higher turnout reflects the growth in the state GOP. 

More than 229,000 of the state’s 1.2 million registered Republicans took part in the caucus that made Donald Trump Kentucky’s GOP presidential nominee. 

While many counties reported long lines at their caucus sites, Biagi said the biggest challenge was the number of Democrats and Independents who showed up to vote and were turned away.

Whether or not Kentucky holds another caucus in the 2020 race will be up to party leaders.

As presidential nominating contests play out around the country, Kentucky Republicans will have their say Saturday.   More than 1.2 million Kentuckians are eligible to vote for the state’s GOP presidential nominee. 

In neighboring Tennessee this week, voters from both parties set an all-combined turnout record.  Turnout projections have been lower in Kentucky where GOP voters will caucus for the first time in more than three decades. 

Ben Mohon will be volunteering at the caucus site in Warren County.  He says he thinks success of the caucus will be measured by more than turnout.

"If people get more involved with the local political scene, or politics in general, and if people come out saying 'I cast my vote for the candidate that's going to do right by me, I think that's a success," Mohon told WKU Public Radio.

Just over 16 percent of Republican voters cast ballots in Kentucky’s 2012 presidential primary. Turnout this year will help determine whether the state holds caucuses in the future.

Statewide voting will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. local time Saturday. Caucus locations and more information is available at the state Republican Party’s website.

More than 1.2 million registered Republicans in Kentucky have the chance to take part in the state’s Republican presidential caucus on Saturday.  At stake are Kentucky’s 46 delegates to the national convention. 

Some are predicting only a fraction will turn out to cast their ballots.

"I’m telling you, across the state I’ve talked to any number of Republicans who don’t even know there is a caucus," said Scott Hofstra of Elizabethtown.

Hofstra chairs the Central Kentucky Tea Party and is the volunteer chairman for the Ted Cruz campaign in Kentucky.  He says the voters who are going to the caucus are excited, but a little apprehensive.

"Even if they’re aware of it, they’ve not been very well-informed about what the caucus is all about and how it’s going to work," Hofstra added.  "The state just has not done a good job of getting the word out.”

The Kentucky Republican Party set up a website and telephone hotline for voters to get more information ahead of Saturday.  State GOP Chairman Mike Biagi says he feels good about the public’s awareness of the caucus.

Flickr/Creative Commons

A survey shows Donald Trump with a big lead among Kentucky Republicans ahead of the March 5 presidential caucus.

The poll was conducted by the Western Kentucky University Social Science Research Center, and shows Trump with 35 percent support.  Marco Rubio was second with 22 percent, followed by Ted Cruz at 15 percent .  John Kasich and Ben Carson are further behind. 

WKU Political Science Professor Joel Turner says Trump maintains a double-digit lead, despite having a lower favorability rating among Kentuckians.

"I think what that signifies to a lot of people is that it's not so much about Trump, like who he is, but what he represents.  He has tapped into that anger and frustration that people have toward government," Turner told WKU Public Radio.  "Our surveyed showed that some 90 percent either feel angry or frustrated at government as opposed to five percent who are relatively happy.  Trump symbolizes that for a lot of people."

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