Ryland Barton

State Capitol Bureau Reporter

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. 

Always looking to put a face to big issues, Ryland's reporting has taken him to drought-weary towns in West Texas and relocated communities in rural China. He's covered breaking news like the 2014 shooting at Fort Hood Army Base and the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. 

Ryland has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Moody’s has downgraded Kentucky’s credit rating because of the low funding level of the state’s pension systems and lackluster revenue gleaned from taxes.

The news comes after the state missed its own revenue prediction by $135 million at the end of the last fiscal year, which finished on June 30.

“The downgrade reflects revenue underperformance that will challenge the commonwealth’s ability to increase its very low pension funding levels,” Moody’s wrote in a news release. “The commonwealth has one of the heaviest unfunded pension burdens of all states. The commonwealth’s high fixed costs will also restrict fiscal flexibility.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The annual Fancy Farm picnic and political speaking event takes place next week in far-west Kentucky’s Graves County.

Though no major elections are scheduled to take place this year, state political leaders will still roll up their shirt sleeves and hurl insults at each other during the 137th iteration of the charity event.

Gov. Matt Bevin has declined an invitation to speak, citing a scheduling conflict. That means a public showdown between the Republican governor and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear will have to wait for another year.

Rae Hodges

Kentucky Senate Democrats are calling for the resignation of Sen. Julian Carroll after news reports that he allegedly groped and asked a man for sex more than a decade ago.

Carroll, an 86-year-old Democrat, served as governor of Kentucky from 1974 to 1979 and has denied the allegations.

In a TV report by Spectrum News Pure Politics, a man alleges that Carroll inappropriately groped him in 2005 and asked him for oral sex.

Spectrum also says Kentucky State Police investigated the matter at the time, but prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.

Jacob Ryan

A state ethics panel says that even if Gov. Matt Bevin got a $1 million discount on a mansion bought from a political donor and appointee, he didn’t violate the state’s ethics code.

The ruling comes after two complaints were filed against Bevin over his purchase of a house and 10 acres of land from Neil Ramsey, who Bevin appointed to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees last summer.

Katie Gabhart, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, says that the board unanimously voted to dismiss the complaints.

Creative Commons

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Louisville lawyer John Bush to be a judge on the federal appeals court despite controversy over offensive blog posts he penned under a pseudonym nearly a decade ago.

Bush made more than 400 posts to the Elephants in the Bluegrass Blog, discussing his opposition to same-sex marriage, questioning former President Obama’s citizenship and comparing abortion to slavery.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said that Bush was unqualified because he frequently cited articles that promoted conspiracy theories.

J. Tyler Franklin

An attorney for Gov. Matt Bevin argued during a hearing on Wednesday that county officials overestimated the value of the governor’s home, considering the mansion is old, in disrepair and has water damage.

The governor’s purchase has come under scrutiny after the Courier-Journal first reported that Bevin paid around $1 million less than official estimates deemed the house and surrounding 10 acres were worth.

Bevin bought the property from Neil Ramsey, a political donor and fellow investment manager who the governor appointed to the board that manages one of the state’s pension systems.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission says that if Attorney General Andy Beshear plans on running for governor in 2019, he shouldn’t investigate allegations that Gov. Matt Bevin used his office to get a deal on a mansion he bought earlier this year.

But the state ethics agency also issued an advisory opinion saying that Beshear could request a third-party investigator to look into the governor’s transaction.

Alix Mattingly

Gov. Matt Bevin has filled a vacancy on the Executive Branch Ethics Commission days before the agency is scheduled to review complaints that allege the governor used his office to get a deal on a mansion he moved into earlier this year.

The move means Bevin appointees now makeup a majority of members on the five-member commission, which is charged with holding Kentucky governors and their administrations accountable.

The new appointee is Owensboro attorney Tim Kline, who donated $200 to Bevin’s gubernatorial campaign in 2015 and has contributed to several other Republican candidates in the state.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has made a combination of spending cuts and fund transfers to fill a more than $152 million budget shortfall after the state didn’t bring in as much money as predicted last during the last fiscal year.

In a news release, the governor’s office said spending in the three branches of state government would be reduced by $59.3 million.

State agencies will also be required to transfer $77.3 million in restricted funds—money collected through fees, tuition or other charges—to the state’s general fund.

Ryland Barton

As Vice President Mike Pence prepared for an event in Lexington today at a party supply center, a small crowd gathered outside. Kimberley Spencer works at an elementary school cafeteria in Lexington and showed up to protest the event.

Pence was in town to rally support for Republican efforts to scale back the Affordable Care Act, and meet with small businesses he says were harmed by the law. In Spencer’s opinion, Kentucky supporters of President Donald Trump are working against the best interests of poor people in the state.

Thinkstock

The majority whip of the state Senate says he wants to expand Kentucky’s felony expungement law to allow people convicted of selling small amounts of marijuana to apply to clear their record after 10 years.

Last year, lawmakers voted to allow people convicted of some nonviolent, nonsexual Class D felonies to apply to expunge their records if they stayed out of trouble for five years and paid a $500 fee.

But drug trafficking is not included among the list of crimes eligible for expungement.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Vice President Mike Pence will be in Lexington Wednesday as part of the White House’s campaign to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

According to a news release, Pence will participate in a listening session with business leaders who say they’ve been hurt by Obamacare and then hold an invite-only event at Bryant’s Rent-All, an equipment rental company.

The event comes as Kentucky has once again become a key battleground in the fight over the health care law.

Simpson County Schools

Kentucky’s education commissioner is offering details of how regulators could measure public schools’ progress improving and educating students. The move comes after the legislature voted to overhaul the school accountability system this spring.

The new system would rate schools and districts on a scale from one to five “stars” based on how well they improve in six categories: proficiency, growth, graduation rates (for high schools), closing the achievement gap, transition readiness and opportunity and access.

Thinkstock

Though tax receipts into Kentucky’s general fund grew for the seventh year in a row, the state was still short about $135 million compared to predictions.

According to State Budget Director John Chilton, Kentucky was on track to meet predictions until March, when the state saw revenue decline by $50.2 million over three months due to a decrease in corporate revenues.

“The forecasting challenge going forward will be predicting when revenues will reverse the current four-month slide and resume collections more closely aligned with underlying economic growth,” Chilton said in a news release.

Mark Doliner/Creative Commons

As self-driving cars become a reality in other parts of the country, state lawmakers are considering how to regulate the vehicles in Kentucky.

During a legislative hearing Thursday about automated driving, experts said the technology can increase safety and road capacity while reducing traffic congestion and freight costs.

But safety liability concerns remain for some, like Sen. C.B. Embry, a Republican from Morgantown.

Pages