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

Gov. Matt Bevin said the man he has appointed to oversee the state’s adoption and foster care system is being unfairly criticized.

Bevin tapped Dan Dumas, a senior vice president with Louisville Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to be Kentucky’s adoption “czar” earlier this month.

Democrats have criticized the appointment for its high pay and Dumas’ lack of experience working in the adoption system.

During a Facebook live event on Friday, Bevin defended the move.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear says he’s exploring whether his office has the authority to investigate if Gov. Matt Bevin improperly bought a house from a political appointee and got a discount.

Beshear said he’s asked the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to weigh in on whether his office should investigate.

“I have real serious concerns about what’s going on in the Bevin administration and whether we’re seeing one of the worst cases of unjust enrichment or personal enrichment by a governor that I can imagine,” Beshear said on Tuesday to Terry Meiners on WHAS.

Becca Schimmel

Sen. Rand Paul has once again filed a bill that would allow judges to have more discretion when imposing sentences on those convicted of federal crimes, though he says the bill will have an “uphill battle” gaining support in the White House.

“I think the key really is not the administration so much — although eventually they would weigh in on it,” Paul said during a conference call on Wednesday. “I think the key is in the Senate. This is one of the few things I think we really have good, broad bipartisan support for.”

The legislation would allow judges to impose sentences that are less severe than mandatory minimum sentences currently required by law.

Paul argues that the policy would help reduce the federal prison population and restore “proportionality, fairness, and rationality to federal sentencing.

Martin Falbisoner/Creative Commons

None of Kentucky’s Republican senators or congressmen responded to requests for comment on allegations that President Donald Trump gave classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell briefly addressed the issue during an interview on Bloomberg TV Tuesday morning.

“I think we can do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” McConnell said.

Wikimedia Commons

As Lexington experiences a surge in the number of people begging for money along city streets, angry citizens have taken to Facebook to document and criticize panhandlers.

The Panhandlers of Lexington Ky. Facebook group has more than 3,000 followers and features user-submitted photos of people asking for money along Lexington’s thoroughfares.

Most of the page’s content is critical of the panhandlers, some posts simply document the intersection where someone saw a panhandler and sometimes the group’s organizer posts local news articles about the recent swell of panhandlers.

The group’s organizer declined to comment for this story, but the page’s about section says its purpose is to “bring awareness to a problem that is getting worse in Lexington.”

Creative Commons

A liberal group has come out against President Donald Trump’s nomination of a Louisville lawyer to a federal appeals court, criticizing him for opposing a landmark ruling dealing with freedom of the press.

John Bush is currently a partner at the Louisville law firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, and according to his website practices complex litigation dealing with financial institutions, intellectual property and product liability disputes.

He is also an influential member of the Federalist Society, a conservative group that advocates for the literal interpretation of laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning.

During a Federalist Society event in 2009, Bush said that a landmark Supreme Court ruling that strengthened press protections from libel claims was probably “wrongly decided.”

WFPL

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes they can pursue.

The new guidelines are a departure from an Obama-era policy that eased prosecutions of people with non-violent drug offenses.

In 2013, then-Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors to avoid charging people with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, which require judges to impose lengthier prison terms.

In a statement, Paul said the reprisal of the “tough on crime” policy isn’t a good idea.

Wikimedia Commons

On a sunny spring afternoon, Grover Rawlins stands at the intersection of Maxwell and Limestone streets near the University of Kentucky campus, waving at cars and asking people for money.

“I don’t bother nobody or nothing, I just sit here on the curb,” Rawlins said. “They give me a dollar or two — I don’t get mad at them or nothing. I’m not out to hurt nobody, I just have to make a dollar.”

The intersection has become a hub for homeless people since February when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Lexington’s ban on panhandling was unconstitutional.

Rich Girard/Creative Commons

In the wake of President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a special prosecutor is not needed to investigate Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky — ramped up calls for an independent investigation into Russia’s meddling after Comey’s abrupt removal.

On the Senate Floor, McConnell dismissed the requests.

“Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done,” McConnell said.

Thinkstock

Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard has resigned after a little more than a year on the job.

A statement from Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn said Ballard resigned to “pursue a private sector venture.”

“We thank him for his service and will immediately begin our search for a permanent replacement,” Wynn said.

Deputy Commissioner Jim Erwin will oversee operations while the agency searches for a replacement, Wynn said.

J. Tyler Franklin

After days of intermittent rain, the sky cleared up for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby and Always Dreaming won by nearly three lengths on a sloppy track.

It was a second derby win for the horse’s trainer and jockey, but their first together.
Winning Jockey John Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011, riding Animal Kingdom.

After the race, Velazquez said he will always look for his next derby win.

“Obviously you come back to the derby looking for another one,” Velazquez said. “You’re always hungry for it.”

Thinkstock

Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office has appealed a judge’s ruling that wiped decades-old convictions from a Kentuckian’s criminal record, arguing they aren’t eligible under the state’s new felony expungement law.

The case hinges on whether crimes committed over a series of days are considered to be part of the same “incident” and are thus all eligible for expungement.

The new law allows people to have certain class D felonies cleared if — after completing their sentences — they stay out of trouble for five years and pay a $500 fee.

NPR

Earlier this week President Donald Trump released a blueprint for changes he’d like to make to the country’s tax code. Though specifics are still unclear, under one portion of the new plan, corporations–including Kentucky’s most profitable companies—would get a tax break.

Trump’s proposal would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, reducing tax revenue into federal coffers by an estimated $2 trillion over 10 years, according to the Tax Foundation, a D.C.-based think tank.

Tyler Houlton, director of federal affairs at libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity, said the move would spur economic growth.

Vanderbilt University

A Kentuckian nominated by President Donald Trump to a federal appeals court will be questioned during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the confirmation of Judge Amul Thapar to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which considers appeals from federal cases originating in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.

Thapar serves in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Kentucky and previously as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District; both appointments were made by President George W. Bush.

Trump included Thapar on a shortlist of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees released during the presidential campaign. He was one of four candidates interviewed for the position.

There are 20 vacancies in the federal appeals courts and 100 more in federal district courts. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has had a vacancy since 2013, when Judge Boyce Martin retired.

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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