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.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear still hasn’t returned contributions made to his 2015 campaign by a former top aide who admitted to taking bribes and is now serving time in federal prison.

Beshear announced last year that he would donate the funds to political watchdog group Common Cause once a routine audit of his campaign account is complete.

The Kentucky Registry for Election Finance confirmed Monday that the audit is still not complete.

Tim Longmeyer was Beshear’s deputy attorney general and last year admitted taking more than $212,000 from a consulting firm in exchange for awarding state contracts to the firm.

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Construction of a statewide broadband internet network in Kentucky has begun, but the project has been delayed and doesn’t have an estimated launch date.

When the initiative was announced in 2015 — during the last year of Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration — officials promised portions in eastern Kentucky would be completed by April 2016.

Phillip Brown is the new executive director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, the agency that oversees the project. On Tuesday, he said it still wasn’t clear when the project would launch.

J. Tyler Franklin

Jim Carroll started working for Kentucky’s state parks system in 1978 making $780 a month.

“So I knew the pay wasn’t good but I knew that it was a place where you could advance over time,” Carroll said. “It was stable, and retirement was part of that.”

Carroll later worked in the tourism cabinet and retired in 2009. Since then, he’s organized a group of concerned state pensioners called Kentucky Government Retirees.

Carroll draws a monthly pension from the retirement system for most of Kentucky’s state workers, Kentucky Retirement Systems. Depending how you measure it, KRS has one of the lowest funding levels in the nation.

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Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville has announced he will run for re-election in 2018. Yarmuth is the lone Democrat among Kentucky’s U.S. representatives and senators and has held his seat since 2007.

In a statement, Yarmuth said that he was invigorated by those speaking out against President Donald Trump.

“The current Administration has shown dangerous incompetence in pursuit of a reckless ideology, and the Congressional majority has, by and large, been complicit,” Yarmuth said. “Impassioned individuals of all stripes, here in Louisville and in communities nationwide, have been a true inspiration, speaking out at a volume we haven’t heard in generations.”

J. Tyler Franklin

On the last day of the legislative session, Gov. Matt Bevin walked up to the state Senate and thanked lawmakers for their work — which was for the most part, in lock-step with his agenda.

“This has been a transformative session,” Bevin said. “Kentucky is better for it. We’ve put seeds in the ground that are going to germinate over time. And as we get older and our kids and grandkids grow up, we’ll be able to look back on the 2017 session and be amazed at the things you’ve set in motion.”

Lawmakers transformed the legal landscape of Kentucky during this year’s General Assembly.

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A new poll shows growing support for a statewide ban on smoking in most public places, despite Kentucky having the highest rate of smokers in the nation.

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows 71 percent of Kentuckians support a comprehensive statewide-smoke free law compared to 66 percent over the last two years.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says such a law would help reduce second-hand smoke and discourage young people from becoming smokers.

“When people don’t see smoking as much, they’re not likely to do it and where we have to stop the smoking is with young people,” Chandler says. “Those are the people who are the most influenced by these things.”

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

The FBI is conducting an antitrust investigation into contractors working on road and construction projects with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

First reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the cabinet recently issued a notice for all contractors who work with the state to preserve contract data as a result of the investigation.

Cabinet employees are also required to preserve all data relating to state contracts dating back to 2010 — which means the scope of the investigation will include contracts made under Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, as well as former Gov. Steve Beshear’s, who left office in 2015.

Ashley Lopez

The last abortion provider in Kentucky will be allowed to stay open while it sues the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services for threatening to revoke its license. 

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers temporarily halted the shutdown of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, ordering the state to allow the clinic to continue operating.  Stivers wrote that the plaintiffs have a “strong likelihood of success” in their suit against the state.

EMW was scheduled to be shut down Monday after the state agency claimed the clinic’s agreements with a local hospital and ambulance service were deficient.  The plaintiffs argue that the clinic’s agreements are in order and that they should have been given a hearing about the revocation of its license.

They also say that the state’s actions were in retaliation to EMW’s challenge to Kentucky's new ultrasound abortion requirement, which is also pending in federal court.

LRC Public Information

The 2017 Kentucky legislative session concluded Thursday night and a bevy of bills now awaits Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature or veto. One surprise; a bill that would have limited the attorney general’s powers did not pass.

Despite a flurry of activity on a bill limiting the attorney general’s powers this week, House Speaker Jeff Hoover said his chamber just didn’t have time to take it up,“We made the decision that to get into a lengthy debate on that because of the situation between the governor and the attorney general, that we just didn’t have time to do it if we were going to do these other bills. And that’s the decision that we made,” he said.

The legislation would have given the governor sole authority to file amicus curiae—or “friend of the court”—briefs where the state weighs in on lawsuits that it’s not involved in.

Republicans have criticized Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for filing briefs they don’t agree with. They also don’t like that Beshear has repeatedly challenged Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in court.

Kentucky LRC

During the final hours of the legislative session, lawmakers voted to allow Gov. Matt Bevin to issue $15 million in bonds to attract an economic development project to the state. But officials won’t say what the project is or where it would be.

Terry Gill, secretary of the Economic Development Cabinet, said he couldn’t provide details about the project, but that it would have “a significant economic upside” for the state. “We’re under a pretty tight non-disclosure, so we’re trying to just provide us with the greatest latitude we have in competing for it.”

Gill said an announcement about the project would come sometime within the coming six months.

House Floor Leader Johnathan Shell revealed on the House floor that the initiative would be in Eastern Kentucky and create 1,000 construction jobs. He also said once completed, the mystery project would create 500 permanent jobs, paying an average of $75,000 per year.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

During a contentious committee hearing late Wednesday night, Republican lawmakers advanced a bill that would limit the powers of the state attorney general’s office.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, called the proposal “silly and unfortunate legislation” and accused lawmakers of trying to give Gov. Matt Bevin more power at the expense of his office.

“This comes at a very high price, simply for a power grab,” Beshear said.

Under the legislation, the attorney general would no longer be able to file an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief on behalf of the state.

Ashley Lopez

The last abortion provider in Kentucky is suing the state to stay open after Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration gave the clinic notice that it would be shut down.

According to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the state health cabinet gave notice to EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville on March 13 that the clinic was out of compliance with state regulations and that their license would be revoked within 10 days.

The clinic then got an extension until April 3.

The lawsuit claims that revoking the clinic’s license would have “drastic” effects on the state.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Republican-led Kentucky legislature overwhelmingly voted to override all four of Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes to bills put on his desk so far this year. Only a handful of lawmakers voted against the governor’s rejections of the legislation.

The overrides are the first since 2013, when the legislature voted to reverse then-Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto of a religious freedom bill.

It only takes a simple majority in each chamber to override a governor’s veto in Kentucky—the 100-member chamber House needs 51 votes and the 38-member Senate only needs 20. But House Speaker Jeff Hoover said it was still difficult to rally lawmakers for the overrides, especially since they were directed at Bevin, a fellow-Republican,“When you override a governor’s veto," he said, "you are telling him publicly that we disagree with you and for some members that’s difficult to do.”

Thursday is the last day of the legislative session.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the charter schools bill into law, allowing the alternative institutions to open up this fall after an application process.

Kentucky is the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools, which will receive public funding and be exempt from most state regulations in an effort to provide innovative education.

Bevin tweeted to mark the occasion:

The legislation was a major priority for Republicans in Kentucky, who had control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history this year.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the so-called “blue lives matter” bill into law. The legislation gives hate crimes protections to emergency responders and police officers.

The controversial policy drew protests throughout its journey through the legislature this year.

Chanelle Helm, an organizer with Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said she was disgusted that Bevin signed the bill into law.

“You know what, they hate us,” Helm said. “They hate us so much that they need hate crime protection. So underneath this law now, they get hate crime protection as if anybody’s out here targeting them.”

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