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

A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky is dead for this year.  Legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes cleared the House, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. 

The legislation was aimed at boosting voter turnout in Kentucky.  Currently, voters must have a qualifying reason to vote early.  Grimes was the leading supporter of the bill.  She expressed frustration that the measure won’t be passed this year.

"I've traveled the state and people feel it's something that we should already have," Grimes stated.  "Much like online voter registration, it's something they expect."

The Kentucky County Clerk’s Association opposed the bill.  Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates said the group feels expanded early voting would be a burden for county clerks with small staffs.

Lisa Autry

One-third of eligible Kentuckians are not registered to vote, but the state’s chief election officer hopes to change that with online voter registration. 

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says more than 15,000 Kentuckians have logged on to GoVoteKY.com to register or update their registration since launching three weeks ago. 

Speaking at Western Kentucky University Thursday, Grimes said online registration has several benefits.

"As other states have experienced, it will help us increase the accuracy of our voter registration rolls and offer the convenience that the voters have demanded, and allow us to reach those Kentuckians who aren't yet registered," Grimes explained.  "The accessibility is a great factor."

Eligible voters previously had to visit their county clerk’s office or mail a voter registration application.

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Mark Perlstein/Feature Photo Service

Even though it’s late in the season, the number of flu cases is on the rise in Kentucky.  State health experts are still encouraging vaccination.

For the ninth week in a row, the flu activity level is widespread, meaning that at least half of the state’s regions are reporting an increase in cases of the flu.  The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.  Increased flu activity began later this season than usual in Kentucky.  Due to the late peak in the season, both in Kentucky and nationally, increased flu activity is anticipated to continue well into May.

Teresa Casey, a registered nurse at the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green, says people should think of others when they consider getting the vaccine.

"You may not decide to get the flu vaccine because you never get sick, but think about the people you are around, and if you did get the flu, who you would pass that on to," stated Casey.

WKU

The student body president at Western Kentucky University says recent cuts to higher education will be detrimental to the state’s public colleges and universities, but for now, he thinks WKU is weathering a storm that could become more severe. 

After House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a budget compromise, Governor Matt Bevin issued an executive order to cut higher education funding by 4.5% before the end of this fiscal year.  For WKU, that amounts to more than $3.3 million. 

Jay Todd Richey, president of the Student Government Association, fears a trend is developing in higher education.

"A cut like this from the governor does nothing to ease my fear that we're facing a privatization of higher education in this country," Richey told WKU Public Radio.

Richey says he agrees with President Ransdell’s decision to tap into the school’s reserve fund to make up for the cut. 

The junior from Glasgow says he’s concerned about the school’s long-term financial stability, citing bond debt and stagnant enrollment.  He hopes future budget cuts are not offset by tuition increases.

The Kentucky House and Senate remain at odds over whether to cut higher education funding even more in the next two-year budget.

A bill that is expected to be signed by Governor Matt Bevin will open some Kentucky courts to family and juvenile proceedings. 

The House and Senate approved legislation this session that would allow the public access to family court in cases involving child abuse, neglect, or dependency. 

Kentucky Youth Advocates Director Terry Brooks has been pushing for more transparency for several years.

"There have been many tragedies that have beset the commonwealth around child welfare where abuse and neglect happen, and fatalities result," Brooks told WKU Public Radio.  "There's always been, whether it's from the press, advocates, or the legal community, a certain doubt as to what really goes on or the inside scoop on the child welfare system."

The measure would allow a certain number of counties to open their courts to the public under a pilot project. 

Supporters believe it will hold judges, lawyers, and social workers more accountable.  However, public defenders don’t support access to cases in which juvenile are charged with crimes.  They argue it would negatively affect the rehabilitation of young offenders.

An automotive supplier has announced plans to locate in Nelson County and create more than 200 jobs. 

Thai Summit will build a $110 million facility in Bardstown, making it the manufacturer’s first location in Kentucky. 

“Kentucky’s auto industry directly employs nearly 90,000 people and constitutes a major part of our economy," said Governor Matt Bevin.  "The addition of Thai Summit speaks to our continuing momentum and the benefits of location and existing customer base that Kentucky offers."

The company plans to begin construction in May on the 220,000-square-foot facility in the Nelson County Industrial Park.  Once the first phase of construction is completed at the end of this year, Thai Summit will begin delivering stamped and welded aluminum assemblies to the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

Kentucky News Network

A case of vandalism in southeastern Kentucky is being investigated as a hate crime. 

Someone vandalized a sign outside the Laurel County African American Heritage Center in London by spray-painting K-K-K and 1488, which is a code sometimes used by white supremacists.

Detective Sergeant Gary Proffitt with the London Police Department says the community is shocked and disturbed by the crime.

"I've been a police officer for 16 years, and something at this level is something that I have not seen," Proffitt told WKU Public Radio.

The center's CEO, Wayne Riley, opened the building in 2004 in an abandoned church he attended as a youth and said he will not be intimidated by the crime.

City police say they're investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, with help from the FBI.

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.

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