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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A state lawmaker from eastern Kentucky has joined a crowded field for State Treasurer.

Representative Rick Nelson of Bell County is seeking the office being vacated by term-limited Todd Hollenbach.

Nelson believes one of the greatest responsibilities of the State Treasurer is sitting on the board of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which is woefully under-funded.

"There's been so many folks that's retired, it's more than even good investments can handle," Nelson told WKU Public Radio.  "It's an issue I think that's going to get worse even if the economy improves."

Representative Nelson recently supported a House measure to borrow $3.3 billion dollars to shore up the pension system, but the Senate held off and asked for more time to study the issue.

Nelson will face off against fellow Democrats Jim Glenn, Neville Blakemore, Richard Henderson, and Daniel Grossberg.

In the Republican field, the candidates for State Treasurer are Allison Ball, Kenny Imes, and Jon Larson.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is freezing tuition at current rates for the 2015-16 academic year. 

The Board of Regents previously approved a $3 per credit hour increase for next year. The board’s decision will keep rates at $147 per credit hour for in-state students, $294 per credit hour for out-of-state students from contiguous counties, and $515 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students.

President Jay Box says the tuition relief comes despite KCTCS receiving less state funding.

"We've had ongoing increases especially since 2008 when the General Assembly decided to start reducing our state appropriations," Box told WKU Public Radio.  "Since 2008, we've lost $38 million or 17% of state appropriations coming our way."

KCTCS has seen enrollment an enrollment decrease since 2011, which Dr. Box attributes to more people going back to work following the recession.

Dr. Box says the 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky remain committed to being the most affordable option for higher education in the state.

A national study finds Kentucky has the second-highest per-capita rate in the country of inappropriate behavior between school employees and students.

The research was conducted by Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. His firm, Drive West Communications, examined media reports in every state daily in 2014. He tracked 22 cases in Kentucky last year.

Just as it is nationwide, Abbott found the problem of is mostly among male school employees. Abbott says the men were an average age of 41.

"Some people assume a lot of the teachers involved in these cases are kids right out of college almost the same age as the students they're teaching and they don't know any better.  That's simple not true," Abbott told WKU Public Radio.  "For the most part, these are educators who have a decade or more of experience in the classroom."

Abbott’s study also revealed that private messages through social media and text messaging were involved in 36 percent of the cases in Kentucky. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered high levels of arsenic on a property in Ohio County.

Signs have been posted and a gate put up to keep people away from the site on Shinkle Chapel Road.  Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston says a former property owner initiated the probe.

"The lady who lived there became sick and her animals became sick.  She was a dog breed," Johnston tells WKU Public Radio.  "She started asking questions and reported it to the federal EPA."

While he only learned of the contamination two months ago, Johnston says the poison had been on the site since the 1940s.

"Someone brought in several drums of arsenic.  We don't know what the purpose of it was, but it was stored in a barn, which burned down seven years ago or so," Johnston adds.  "It wasn't a threat until then, but it got into a large area and killed all the trees on a few acres of land."

Soil samples revealed extremely high concentrations of the toxic element.  The poison hasn’t contaminated any water supplies. The federal EPA will be overseeing the cleanup.

As Kentucky lawmakers consider increasing the state’s minimum wage, a WKU economics professor is warning such a move could have negative consequences. 

Dr. Brian Strow says a minimum wage hike would harm the people it’s meant to help. 

"More than half of minimum workers are 24 and younger," Strow tells WKU Public Radio.  "There's only about 15 percent of workers that are the major bread winner for their family."

The report, commissioned by the Bluegrass Institute, also notes that past minimum wage increase have resulted in higher unemployment in Kentucky relative to the rest of the country.  

"We are particularly hurt by increasing the minimum wage relative to the number of people working in Kentucky because a larger percentage of our population is actually working at minimum wage than in other states," he adds.

The Democratic-led Kentucky House earlier this month passed a bill that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.  The measure faces dim prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The last time state lawmakers approved a minimum wage increase was in 2007.  Supporters say the last increase has been eroded by inflation in the cost of living. 

Lisa Autry

As temperatures plunge below zero, the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society is reminding pet owners to bring their animals inside. 

Director Lorri Hare says while it may be an inconvenience, it could mean the difference between life and death. 

If someone doesn’t have room in their home, the shelter is offering to house the animals.

"This type of weather is so extremely dangerous," Hare tells WKU Public Radio.  "Many people don't realize it can be fatal not just domesticated animals, but also large animals.  We just thought that as long as we had room, we would provide free boarding."

Hare says the shelter does not have the capacity to house large-breed animals such as livestock.  The free boarding service is only open to dogs. 

If someone doesn’t have transportation to the shelter, Hare says staff will come to their home and pick up the animal.

The boarding service will continue through Saturday when a warm-up is expected in the forecast. 

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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