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
1:19 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Coalition of Groups Helps Bowling Green Veteran Live the American Dream

Keith Koerner and his girlfriend Kelly Ballance stand on the front porch of their new home in Bowling Green.
Lisa Autry

A Marine veteran received the keys to his new home today in Bowling Green.

Formerly homeless, Keith Koerner, a student at WKU, is now a first-time homeowner.

"This is an amazing gift to me and I want to assure each one of you who are now my angels that have made this possible that I'm going to give back to this community," said Koerner.  "I really didn't feel like I deserved this, and most veterans would say the same thing."

Housing and Development Services of Bowling Green (HANDS) worked with Monticello Banking Company of Monticello, Kentucky a coalition of local veterans’ groups, the city of Bowling Green, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul to build a home for Koerner. 

"I am pleased to be part of this.  This is a great combination of government, private, and community to get together to do something that I think is very noble," commented Paul.

The house, located on Chestnut Street, was financed with a $75,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. 

Also helping with construction were Wabuck Development and Clayton-Watkins Construction, both of Leitchfield, Kentucky. 

The property for the home was donated by the city of Bowling Green.

Education
3:07 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Impact of Eastern Kentucky Math and Science Academy Unsure

The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at WKU opened in 2007 and houses 120 talented Kentucky high school juniors and seniors who are furthering their education in science, technology, math, and engineering.
Credit WKU

The director of the Center for Gifted Studies at WKU says Kentucky is entering uncharted territory by having two math and science academies. 

State lawmakers approved funding this year to open the Craft Academy at Morehead State University. 

The pr0gram, scheduled to start in 2015, will be modeled after WKU’s Gatton Academy that’s home to Kentucky’s brightest high school students who are pursuing careers in math, science, technology, and engineering. 

"Residential schools like the Gatton Academy have been around since 1980.  There are 15 states that have a state school, but no state has two," explains Dr. Julia Roberts, Director of the Center for Gifted Studies at WKU.  "So we are moving into uncharted ground.

Dr. Roberts says she hopes the two schools can form partnerships. 

“It will help more Kentucky students have the opportunity to learn at the very highest level.  I think that’s how we must look at it," she states.

She adds that Gatton Academy students already come from most every part of the state.  In the seven years since it opened, Gatton has attracted students from 113 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Business/Politics
4:28 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Trey Grayson Hired as President of Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Trey Grayson is the former Kentucky Secretary of State who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He last the Republican primary that year to Rand Paul.
Credit Harvard University

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson is returning to the commonwealth to lead the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. 

Grayson recently resigned as director of the Harvard University Institute of Politics.

In a phone interview Thursday, Grayson told WKU Public Radio that becoming president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was the perfect job to come home to.  He said thinks his two terms as secretary of state and his Frankfort and Washington connections will serve him well.                                   

"Somebody in the interview process referred to me as having the best of both worlds where I am a local with some local knowledge, but I also know how Washington and Frankfort works, and how a big city like Boston operates," commented Grayson.

"While he has the flavor of our local community, he brings to us a much wider national perspective," remarked Chamber Chairwoman Debbie Simpson."There are issues that any business organization is dealing with.  People are doing business differently today and our organizations have to adjust to fit that, and I think the fresh perspective that Trey is bringing back will really help us meet those challenges," added Simpson.

Northern Kentucky is facing a couple of immediate challenges, including the aging Brent Spence Bridge and the closing of Toyota’s corporate headquarters.

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Politics
8:56 am
Wed May 21, 2014

McConnell Issues Debate Invitation to Grimes

Polls show a virtual tie between McConnell and Grimes heading into the November election.

Updated Thursday at 8:52 a.m.:  The Grimes campaign says it will send Senator McConnell a full response to his debate invitation in the coming days.  In the meantime, Grimes' Campaign Manager Jonathan Hurst issued the following statement:

"Once again Mitch McConnell is behind Alison Lundergan Grimes. Days ago, she welcomed the opportunity to debate McConnell and our campaign stands ready to discuss details. He will need all the time in the world to defend a 30-year record of looking out for himself and creating gridlock in Washington. This campaign is about two very distinct visions for Kentucky's future: one puts forward bold ideas to put Kentuckians back to work, while the other does not believe it is his responsibility to bring jobs to the Commonwealth. What Kentuckians don't need are gimmicks and games. If Mitch McConnell truly wants this campaign to be a healthy debate about issues between the candidates, we should also agree to keep outside organizations from flooding Kentucky airwaves with special interest money."

Original post:

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell wants to debate his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes three times before the November election. 

In a letter to Grimes on Tuesday, Senator McConnell invites her to participate in three Lincoln-Douglas style debates, with no audience, props, or notes 

"I think it's very interesting that Senator McConnell issued the invitation," says University of Louisville Political Science Professor Dr. Laurie Rhodebeck.  "It's a little unusual that an incumbent would invite debates.  The tradition tends to be that incumbents avoid debates if at all possible."

The incumbent senator writes in the letter that “Kentucky voters will get their fill of campaign ads and scripted events this year, but the debates will provide an excellent format to evaluate our true views on the issues."

The Senate minority leader refused to debate his primary challenger, whom McConnell led by a wide margin.  Polls show a neck-and-neck match-up between McConnell and Grimes.

"Secretary Grimes has shown herself to be a very good fundraiser and she's run a fairly savvy campaign so far, including some fairly powerful TV commercials.  I think Senator McConnell realizes he has a very serious challenge and one way to meet that challenge is to use the debate arena," Rhodebeck told WKU Public Radio.  "Also, as he has pointed out, it's a way to bypass the news media, campaign advertising, to get around some of those filters that I'm sure both candidates find irritating."

McConnell suggests the first debate should be held by July 4th, before voters are inundated with campaign advertising.  McConnell wants the second debate to take place before Fancy Farm in August, and a third and final debate around Labor Day.

The Grimes campaign has not responded to WKU Public Radio about the invitation.

Politics
9:24 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Warren County Voters Set November Field for Family Court Judge, City Commission Races

Pat Devlin of Bowling Green and her granddaughter, Anniston Goolesby, 9, of Rockfield hold campaign signs for Alan Blythe, Devlin’s coworker, at the corner of Scottsville Road and Lover’s Lane on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.
Credit Abbey Oldham

Warren County voters have set the field for some important local November matchups.

David Lanphear emerged at the top vote-getter in a five-way primary for Warren County Family Court Judge. Rebecca Adams Simpson came in second place, only one point behind Lanphear.

Lanphear and Adams Simpson both move on to the November general election. The judgeship was formerly held by Margaret Huddleston, who died from cancer in January.

Of the nine candidates for Bowling Green City Commission, eight will compete in the fall, and ultimately four will be elected. Incumbent Joe Denning received the most votes, followed closely behind incumbent Melinda Hill and challenger Sue Perrigin.

Rounding out the field that will appear on the November ballot are Rick Williams, Slim Nash, Mike Clark, Mark Bradford, and Don Langley.

Politics
3:10 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Grassroots Electioneering Underway During Primary Day in Kentucky

Warren County Deputy Clerks Robin Loid, left, and Angela Griego take a steady stream of calls from voters.
Lisa Autry

Local election workers are putting in a long day, overseeing the casting and counting of votes. 

Workers in the Warren County Clerk’s office arrived at 5:00 a.m. and have since fielded hundreds of phone calls from people checking their precincts and voting locations. 

Under redistricting, Warren County doubled its number of precincts from the previous 64.  More precincts means people will likely be voting closer to home. 

"We have tried to make that more convenient for the voters," says Warren County Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Dismon.  "We have a total of 121 precincts, but 88 have actual voters in them.  We are hoping its more on the way to work or on the way home for people to have better access to their polling place.

Voter turnout in Warren County is expected to be around 20 percent, but a host of local races and nice weather could push turnout toward 30 percent, which is predicted to be the state average.

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Politics
6:23 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Likely U.S. Senate Nominees McConnell, Grimes Urge Change

Tuesday is primary election day in Kentucky, and both Republican Incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes are expected to easily win their respective primaries. Both are already campaigning with an eye toward November. 

One is urging voters to change the Senate.  The other is urging voters to change the senator. 

During a Republican rally in Bowling Green over the weekend, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s proud to be the president’s number one problem and urged voters to return him to the U.S. Senate, where he would likely become Majority Leader.

"I've enjoyed being the defensive coordinator, and you can score occasionally on defense, but the offensive coordinator gets to call the plays, set the agenda, and choose a new direction for our country," said McConnell.

McConnell said one way to change the country is to change the makeup of the Senate.  Republicans need six more seats for McConnell to become Majority Leader.  The five-term incumbent made no mention of his GOP primary, but focused his remarks on the general election. 

Meanwhile, presumed Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Grimes told a gathering of about 30 people in Franklin on Saturday that it's time to change senators after 30 years. She criticized McConnell for opposing increasing the minimum wage and measures ensuring women are paid the same salaries as men.

Grimes is wrapping up a 50-county bus tour of Kentucky.

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Politics
9:06 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Several Kentucky Tea Party Groups Hope to Defeat McConnell in Primary

While establishment Republicans may still rule the day, the Tea Party is bent on taking down the king, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

The five-term incumbent is waging two wars to hang on to his seat. The first battle, culminating on May 20, has McConnell in a primary contest with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Hoping he doesn’t survive to fight in the general election, Tea Party groups across Kentucky are rallying the troops ahead of the May 20 primary.

“When was the last time you saw a town hall here in Kentucky with Senator McConnell where he actually answered questions? He shows up at Lincoln Day dinners, gives his speech, and leaves," asserts Scott Hofstra with the United Kentucky Tea Party. "He’s not accountable to us and doesn’t want to be. We deserve better.”

Hofstra spoke recently in Elizabethtown to a group called the Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots, a mix of mostly blue collar workers and retirees. 

National Tea Party groups are mostly split in their support of McConnell and Bevin, but state and local groups are mostly rallying around Bevin, someone they call a “true conservative,” who they think can take the GOP back to its roots.

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Agriculture
7:54 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Kentucky Hemp Fight Lands in Federal Court

Kentucky is suing for the release of hemp seeds imported from Italy.

The Kentucky Agriculture Department is taking three federal agencies to court.  Commissioner James Comer filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Louisville Wednesday seeking the release of 250 pounds of hemp seeds.

Defendants in the suit include the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The seeds have been held up in Louisville for more than a week.  The DEA claims the state needs a special permit, which might months to receive.  Agriculture experts say the seeds need to be in the ground by June 1 for a normal growing season.

"Commissioner Comer is tired of playing around with this, and we've expended a great deal of time and energy on these projects and we're going to move forward with them," says Comer's Chief of Staff Holly VonLuerhte.

VonLuerht says a permit is unnecessary. She points to the federal farm bill, which allows Kentucky to plant the seeds for research.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to force Customs officials to release the Italian hemp seeds for planting in Kentucky this spring.

Agriculture
4:58 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Kentucky's Hemp Saga Appears Headed for Court

Kentucky is on the verge of legally growing hemp for the first time in decades.

Updated at 4:55 p.m: 

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will not have to go to court to win the release of 250 pounds of hemp seeds.  The seeds, imported from Italy, are being held by U.S. Customs officials in Louisville. Staff at the Agriculture Department spent much of Tuesday wrangling over the phone with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  The DEA was holding the hemp seeds, despite language in the Farm Bill allowing Kentucky to import the seeds for research projects.  By the end of the day, the DEA agreed to release the seeds by the end of the week. 

Original post:

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is giving a federal agency until the end of the day on Tuesday  release 250 pounds of hemps seeds or else be taken to court. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration is holding the seeds, which have been imported for research projects with some Kentucky universities.  The seeds, shipped from Italy, are being held at a UPS warehouse in Louisville. 

The DEA argues the seeds can’t be released without a special permit, regardless of language in the Farm Bill. 

"If you will look at the Farm Bill, it starts off saying 'Not withstanding any other federal law.'  In spite of these other federal laws, Congress intended that we still be allowed to do this," says Holly VonLuerhte, chief of staff for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.  "Under DEA's interpretation,  we have the authority to conduct pilot programs but we don't have the authority to get the seeds, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

Obtaining a DEA permit could take several months, making it impossible to plant the seeds this year. 

"We've been told by agricultural experts if we don't have this industrial hemp seed in the ground by June 1, then the likelihood is that it won't come up," adds VonLuerhte.

The state is prepared to go to federal court in Louisville Wednesday and ask a judge to force U.S. Customs officials to release the seeds.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has received one shipment of seeds that came from within the U.S.  Those seeds are supposed to be planted for a research project in Rockcastle County on Friday.

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