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

Kentucky Republicans have until Friday to request an absentee ballot for the March 5 presidential caucus. 

Ballot applications must be requested by February 19 and can be found on the state GOP website.  Absentee ballots must be returned to the Kentucky Republican Party headquarters by March 4.  Since this is the first caucus in Kentucky in more than three decades, Warren County Caucus Chairman David Graham says turnout is a concern.

"I think statewide we had only around 30 percent in our gubernatorial election, and sad to say, we'd be tickled to have 30 percent turnout at the caucus, but that's why we're getting out the word the best we can to make sure everyone's aware of it," Graham told WKU Public Radio.

Eleven GOP presidential candidates qualified for the Kentucky caucus, though several have already dropped out of the race, including Senator Rand Paul.  Their names will still appear on the pre-printed ballots.

The last time that Kentucky held a presidential caucus was in 1984 when both the Republican and Democratic parties participated.  This year, Kentucky Democrats will pick their presidential nominee in the regular May primary.

KCTCS

Kentucky’s improving economy is driving steep declines in community college enrollment, but the head of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System says those schools are not losing their relevance.  In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Dr. Jay Box said community colleges remain key in building a stronger workforce which translates into a stronger middle class.

Box:  We are the primary provider of workforce education and training in all states and we realize the jobs that our graduates get are those middle class jobs, the jobs that are so important in our economy.

Autry:  You were recently appointed to a national community college board called Reclaiming America’s Middle Class.  One of its missions is to promote community colleges and the role they play in serving students, whether right out of high school or adult learners who perhaps are coming from jobs into the classroom.  Talk about some of the priorities of this national board.

Two weeks after Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell announced plans to retire next year, the process to find his successor has officially begun. 

In a special meeting Friday afternoon, the WKU Board of Regents appointed a search committee of mostly current and former regents.  Search Committee Chairman Dr. Phillip Bale told WKU Public Radio that the seven-member group could be expanded.

"Western Kentucky University involves more than just the university," stated Bale.  "Obviously, it's a very important part of Bowling Green and this surrounding region, so we'll be looking to see if there's any other stakeholders who need a voice or larger voice than what we have right now."

The presidential search committee will include:

  • Dr. Phillip Bale, Chair and current Regent
  • Dr. Barbara Burch, current Faculty Regent
  • Mrs. Cynthia Harris, current Board of Regent's Secretary
  • Mrs. Julie Hinson, WKU Alumni Association President
  • Mr. James Meyer, former Board of Regents Chairman
  • Mr. Jay Todd Richey, current Student Regent
  • Dr. Tamela Smith, current Staff Regent

The Board of Regents also voted to immediately issue a request for proposals from executive search firms.  The deadline to submit proposals will be March 2, 2016.

The search committee hopes to have the candidate pool narrowed to no more than five finalists by this December with the selection of a new president by March 2017. 

This will only be the seventh presidential search in the 110-year history of the university.  Dr. Ransdell has said that he will not be a part of the search process.

KCTCS

The head of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System has been appointed to a new national board that advocates for the needs of community colleges. 

KCTCS President Jay Box says the board called “Reclaiming America’s Middle Class” promotes the value of community colleges to students, communities, and the economy. He says that’s something often not wellunderstood by policy makers.

"We are the primary provider of workforce education and training in all states, and we realize that the jobs our graduates get are those middle class jobs, the jobs that are so important in our economy," Box told WKU Public Radio.

The board has several priorities, including an expansion of Pell Grants for summer classes. Box says that would help students complete their education quicker and with less cost. 

The board is made up of leaders from the nation’s largest community college systems.  KCTCS has 16 schools and 70 campus locations.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

Kentucky Baptists who have experience in providing clean drinking water in under-developed countries are headed to Michigan. 

Five teams will leave Monday for Flint to install water purification systems for families dealing with lead contamination. 

Coy Webb, head of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, said the teams want the residents of Flint to know people are paying attention to what happened there.

"I think anytime there's long-term problems they just feel like people aren't taking notice of their needs, which many times is not true, but they still feel that way," Webb told WKU Public Radio.  "We hope our teams going door to door can not only give them safe drinking water, but also let them know there are people who care about them."

Flint Residents' Broken Faith: 'The People We Trusted Failed Us'

Teams will be leaving from several Kentucky cities, including Beaver Dam.  In the past year, the Baptists have been deployed to Zambia and Mozambique to provide safe drinking water, but Webb said this will be the first time to his knowledge, that relief teams have been dispatched in the U.S. on a water purification mission.

Counties surrounding Fort Knox are working to lessen their reliance on the post in the face of military cutbacks. 

A study is underway to determine how the region might diversify to improve the local economy.  Wendell Lawrence, executive director of the Lincoln Trail Area Development District, says discussions like this are happening across the country.

"It is Army wide because the end strength seems to be going down quite frequently, and when you have cutbacks in strength, it affects units and installations," Lawrence told WKU Public Radio.

Fort Knox has lost at least 2,3000 soldiers since 2010, in addition to their family members and civilian employees. 

Lawrence says cutbacks at Fort Knox have the potential to affect more than 150,000 residents of Hardin, Larue, and Meade counties. 

He added that the region has several assets as it looks to diversify, including manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401kcalculator.org

A diverse group of education, economic, and health organizations is banding together to push for tax reform in Kentucky. 

The Kentucky Together Coalition was formed days after Governor Matt Bevin proposed steep budget cuts to many state agencies.  Coalition Spokesman Kenny Colston said the commonwealth currently loses more in tax breaks and loopholes than it receives in revenue.

"Many of these tax breaks were set up years or decades ago without any sunset provisions, and it's really a drain on the state budget," Colston told WKU Public Radio.  "It's not necessarily raising taxes on people.  We think these special interest tax breaks should be one of the first things looked at."

Governor Bevin’s administration has said it would consider tax reform after the current legislative session. 

A commission established by former Governor Steve Beshear presented a plan in 2012 to modernize Kentucky’s tax system and generate nearly $700 million a year.  However, state lawmakers didn’t act on the plan.

With proposed budget cuts to offset a major pension shortfall, the coalition argues tax reform is needed to protect the state’s vital public services.

In just over a month, Kentucky Republicans will hold a presidential caucus for the first time in more than three decades. Republicans in the past have joined Democrats in holding a May primary election for president. But this year is different.

Warren County Caucus Chairman David Graham spoke to WKU Public Radio about the differences between a caucus and primary.

Graham:  Caucuses can be very different, but in our case, it's going to be very much like a primary, only it will be at a different date, and it will be run by the party and not the county or state.  Our caucus will be March 5.  Most every county will have one voting location and voters can come in anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and vote very much like they would in a normal primary.

Abbey Oldham

As U.S. Senator Rand Paul prepares for a Republican presidential debate Thursday night, a former Kentucky House Speaker says Democrats could benefit from Paul’s White House bid.

Glasgow attorney Bobby Richardson was a state Representative from 1972-1990, and served as House Speaker during the 1982 and 1984 General Assembly sessions.

Richardson says whoever emerges as the Democrat’s nominee for U.S. Senate should remind voters Paul is seeking two offices at the same time.

“I think he needs to say he’s running for the United States Senate, and I’m going to be a Senator. I’m not going to be running for President, and I’m not going to be running for anything else. I’m going to be there taking care of business.”

The Kentucky Republican Party is holding a presidential caucus March 5 so that Paul can run for re-election to the Senate and seek the White House simultaneously.

Last week’s winter storm set a record in Bowling Green.  Friday’s snowfall was the third unusually large snowstorm to impact the region in the past 12 months. 

The 12.2-inch snowfall was the third largest single-day snowfall in Bowling Green history dating back to 1893.  State Climatologist Stuart Foster at WKU said the snow also came on the heels of nearly ten inches in February 2015 and more than seven inches last March.

"Those came with a lot of complicating factors in terms of some frigid temperatures and then after one of those events, we had a lot of rain on top of that," Foster said.  "While we had a lot of snow this time, we kind of dodged a bullet too."

During the peak of Friday’s snow storm, more than seven inches of snow fell in a six-hour period between 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. 

Eastern portions of the state also posted some impressive snowfall amounts of up to 22 inches.  Accumulations were much lower in western Kentucky.

Kentucky LRC

A top Democrat in the Kentucky House says he will not seek re-election.

Johnny Bell of Glasgow plans to retire from the General Assembly after eight years. 

The House Majority Whip says the political atmosphere in federal and state legislatures has changed, and it’s more about politics than about serving the people. The 50-year-old Bell serves Barren and a portion of Warren County. 

His announcement comes as Democrats hold a narrow 50-46 majority in the Kentucky House with four seats up for grabs in a special election March 8. 

Glasgow Attorney Danny Basil and City Councilman Joe Trigg, both Democrats, will run for Bell’s seat along with Republicans Freddie Joe Wilkerson and Steve Riley.

Tuesday is the filing deadline for candidates seeking office this year.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dean Shareski

Many schools across Kentucky canceled classes yet again Monday, but in some districts, snow days are no longer what they used to be. 

Barren County is one of 44 school systems using a program that allows students to continue their education at home. 

Director of Instruction Scott Harper says many assignments can be completed online.

"If teaches and students are available for that kind of learning using some platform like Google Classroom, then they design their lessons around that," explained Harper.  "At the same time, they also design lessons for students who may not have access at home."

The program can be used not just during inclement weather, but also in the event of sickness, such as a flu outbreak. 

Completing snow day assignments means students don’t have to make up the days at the end of the school year.

Kevin Willis

A winter storm warning goes into effect Thursday night for much of Kentucky as the state deals with a second round of snowfall this week.  However, this storm system is much stronger. 

Meteorologist Ron Steve with the National Weather Service in Louisville says more than a foot of snow is expected in some places.

"There's going to be a pretty good swath basically paralleling the Western Kentucky and Bluegrass Parkways from Hopkinsville, up through Elizabethtown towards Lexington that could get ten to 14 inches and even some locally higher amounts than that," Steve predicted. 

Bowling Green can expect between five and nine inches of snow.  Four to eight inches is predicted in Somerset.  Owensboro should get between four and six inches of snowfall, and Elizabethtown should prepare for between ten and 14 inches. 

Forecasters say there will be some sleet and freezing rain, as well as ice accumulations of up to a quarter inch. 

Travel is expected to become very dangerous.  In addition to the snowfall, wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour will reduce visibility.

Kentucky Department of Education

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt issued a report Thursday on the state’s educational successes and challenges. In The State of K-12 Public Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky report, he praised the 88% graduation rate and the 66% of students who are graduating college and career ready.

"Six years ago, we were in the 30s, so we've almost doubled.  In doing that, we're finding those kids are doing better in postsecondary," Pruitt told WKU Public Radio.  "Their GPAs are higher, their tendency to come back for a second year is higher."

Commissioner Pruitt said some changes will be made to state education standards based on public comments. Calculus and cursive writing will be added to math and English standards.

Pruitt added that closing the achievement gap remains one of Kentucky’s biggest challenges and he also noted that per-student spending trails the national average.

Update: All Western Kentucky University campuses are closed Wednesday, and are classes have been canceled.

Lindsey Wilson College and Campbellsville University are also closed Wednesday due to the winter weather.  

Original post:

The western half of Kentucky is under a Winter Storm Warning as the first measureable snow of the winter is on its way. 

Forecasters are predicting around five inches in Bowling Green, four inches in the Somerset and Owensboro regions, and two inches in Lexington and Louisville. 

The heaviest amounts will start Wednesday morning and continue into the afternoon.  Hydrologist Mike Callahan with the National Weather Service in Louisville says the snowfall could be tricky for commuters.

"They need to be extremely careful," Callahan told WKU Public Radio.  "A lot of people are misguided thinking that a little bit of snow isn't a problem and sometimes a little bit of snow can be more treacherous than after the snow falls for a while."

Callahan says this will mainly be a snow event, but forecasters are watching another storm system that will occur Thursday night and into Friday that could bring a mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. 

Temperatures this week will be steady with evening lows in the 20s and daytime highs in the low to mid 30s.

Pages