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.

Ryland Barton

A panel has unanimously voted to remove a plaque from a statue of Jefferson Davis at the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda that labels the president of the Confederacy as “patriot, hero, statesman.”

African-American leaders have called for the removal of the statue for years and the call was renewed following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

Craig Potts, who chairs the Rotunda Committee of the Historic Property Advisory Commission, said the plaque should be removed because not everyone feels the same way about Davis.

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Four Kentuckians die of drug overdoses every day, according to the state Office of Drug Control Policy. Most of those deaths are due to opioids, chief among them fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has properties similar to heroin.

During a daylong update Wednesday on the state of Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, lawmakers heard from doctors, counselors and those in recovery about efforts to combat drug addiction.

J. Tyler Franklin

In a video played for business leaders, Gov. Matt Bevin called for a variety of changes to the state tax code, including lowering corporate income tax and the eventual elimination of the individual income tax.

The governor said the changes would make the state more attractive to people and companies looking to relocate.

“I’m more confident in your ability to take the leftover dollar and turn it into a ‘dollar plus’ than if you send it to Frankfort and just give us the ability to dispense of it,” Bevin said in a 20-minute long video played before a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gathering Thursday.

Ryland Barton

Attorney General Andy Beshear said there are “significant legal problems” with Gov. Matt Bevin’s recent request for most state agencies to cut their budgets by more than 17 percent.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Beshear said that Bevin can’t make the proposed $350 million in cuts because state law only allows a governor to unilaterally cut budgets if there is an estimated budget shortfall.

“These are the restrictions on what the governor can or can’t do,” Beshear said. “I’m just applying the law as it was passed by the General Assembly.”

Lawyers for Kentucky’s only abortion clinic and Planned Parenthood on Thursday grilled a state official during the second day of a licensing battle taking place in federal court.

Robert Silverthorn, the inspector general for Kentucky’s health cabinet, defended the state’s aggressive enforcement of transfer agreements — contracts that abortion providers are required to make with a hospital and ambulance service.

Silverthorn said that the agreements ensure that emergency responders and hospitals are acquainted with an abortion clinic’s features.

Lisa Gillespie

Lawyers representing Kentucky’s only abortion provider squared off against Gov. Matt Bevin’s legal team in federal court Wednesday amid a licensing battle that will determine if the state becomes the first in the nation without an abortion provider.

Bevin’s lawyer told a federal court that if EMW Women’s Surgical Center is shut down, abortion seekers could go to surrounding states to get the procedure.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

More state workers retired last month than the year before amid concerns that the legislature and Gov. Matt Bevin will make changes to state retirement plans.

David Smith, executive director for the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said state workers have been retiring after consultants hired by the state recommended drastic changes to the pension systems.

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The Trump administration’s plan to lift the ban on giving certain types of military equipment to local governments is unlikely to have major consequences in Kentucky and other states.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy change last Monday, telling members of the Fraternal Order of Police that the move would “ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become the new normal.”

Ryland Barton

African-American leaders called on Gov. Matt Bevin to remove a white marble statue of Jefferson Davis from the state Capitol building on Wednesday.

The plea comes in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. But for years, activists have called for Davis’ likeness to be removed from the Capitol Rotunda, which exhibits statues of revered Kentuckians including Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, U.S. Sen. Alben Barkley and pioneer surgeon Ephraim McDowell.

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A Kentucky middle school teacher says Gov. Matt Bevin delivered a “low blow” when he publicly scolded her in a Facebook Live video Monday night.

Bevin displayed a one-sentence email — with a curse word redacted — sent from teacher Corinne Ellis to kick off an hour-long live video session in which he selected questions from state workers about the state’s pension crisis and potential changes.

“These are the kind of things that are not helpful to this discourse,” Bevin said of Ellis’ email in the video, which as of Tuesday afternoon has been viewed more than 126,000 times.

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A consulting firm hired by the state has recommended weakening pension benefits for current and retired state workers as a way to steer Kentucky’s retirement systems away from insolvency.

The proposed changes suggested by PFM Consulting Group include shifting future state employees from defined benefit retirement plans to 401(k)-style plans and raising the retirement age to 65 for most state workers.The firm also said the state should get rid of cost-of-living raises given to state pensioners over the last 20 years and no longer allow employees to use accrued sick days and comp-time to enhance their pension benefits.


Ryland Barton

Justices on Kentucky’s Supreme Court heard arguments over whether Gov. Matt Bevin had the right to overhaul the University of Louisville board of trustees last year under a law that gives the governor power to reshape state boards while the legislature isn’t in session.

Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

A bipartisan group of community leaders and lawmakers called for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from the state Capitol rotunda during a rally on Wednesday.

The gathering came in response to the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over that city’s removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

“Do not ever tell me that Confederate symbols have no meaning,” said Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League.

“We have fought in America’s wars, we have nursed your children, we have prayed for your souls and still when we walk through our country and see the symbols of hate that we endure being flown, raised and honored, we are told to get over it.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned white supremacists who are gearing up for a rally in Lexington in response to plans to remove statues of Confederate generals from city property.

“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred,” McConnell said in a statement. “There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”

Jacob Ryan

Gov. Matt Bevin says that he’s opposed to removing Confederate monuments from public property, calling it a “sanitization of history.”

The statement comes days after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia stemming from a white nationalist protest of that city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

“I absolutely disagree with this sanitization of history,” Bevin said in an interview on WVHU radio in Huntington, West Virginia.

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