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.

Stephen George

After President Donald Trump cited Gov. Matt Bevin’s claim that the Affordable Care Act is “unsustainable and collapsing” in Kentucky during his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear delivered the official Democratic response: Don’t dismantle Obamacare.

“You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it,” Beshear said during his speech, which was broadcast from a diner in Lexington.

“Does the Affordable Care Act need some repairs? Sure it does,” Beshear said. “But so far, every Republican idea to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite your promises to the contrary.”

LRC Public Information

A bill that would centralize Kentucky’s driver’s licensing program and bring the state into compliance with federal ID card rules has received initial approval from a legislative committee.

The General Assembly needs to pass the bill in order to meet stricter REAL ID standards passed by Congress more than a decade ago.

If lawmakers don’t pass the legislation, starting June 6, Kentuckians will have to bring additional identification — like a passport — in order to access military bases.

And starting Jan. 22, 2018, Kentuckians would need additional identification to board domestic flights.

Alix Mattingly

Gov. Matt Bevin said Monday despite praise for Kentucky’s embrace of the Affordable Care Act in recent years, the initiative has been an “abject failure” in the state.

“Kentucky, which has long been vaunted as an example of the opposite, I’m telling you as a matter of fact has been an unmitigated disaster,” Bevin said at a news conference after governors attended an event with President Trump.

Bevin has long opposed the Affordable Care Act, which made more people eligible for Medicaid in Kentucky and created a state exchange, Kynect, for people to purchase health insurance.

J. Tyler Franklin

Despite protests from Louisville Democrats, a state Senate committee on Thursday passed a bill that would tinker with the way the city’s Metro Council operates.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had a mixed response to policies in the legislation, but called the process by which the bill has been negotiated an “insult to the people of Louisville.”

“There are good things with the bill, there are bad things with the bill,” Fischer said. “There’s unfunded mandates in the bill, there’s tremendously increased workloads in the bill as well. That’s not the primary issue to me, the issue is the citizens of Louisville should have a voice in any changes that takes place to their government.”

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Gov. Matt Bevin said he’s been impressed with Trump’s picks for cabinet positions and is encouraged by the administration’s pledge to cut federal regulations.

Bevin took part in a panel discussion Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC in Washington.

He also touted his own initiative to cut bureaucratic red tape in Frankfort.

“We’ve pledged to cutting 30 percent of all the red tape in Kentucky in the next three years,” Bevin said. “We have 130,000 rules. Pretty confident that we can govern everybody with 90-something-thousand.”

Ryland Barton

Opponents flooded a town hall event held by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Mt. Sterling early Wednesday morning. The group booed, shouted down and at times hissed at Kentucky’s 6th district congressman over his stances on cutting corporate taxes, repealing the Affordable Care Act and scaling back the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group also criticized Barr for not holding a town hall event in the largest city in Barr’s district — Lexington.

“If he’s off all week, why can’t he have more and have them in some larger towns,” asked Jessie Bollinger, a social worker from Lexington after the event. “I think he’s trying to avoid our voices. Because our voices were pretty strong here in this little small courtroom.”

Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons

Gov. Matt Bevin announced his support for the latest charter school bill introduced in the General Assembly. The legislation would allow non-profit or for-profit organizations to create new charter schools with the permission of a local school district or the state Department of Education.

House Education Chair Bam Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he envisions three to five of the institutions opening up in Kentucky by the 2018-19 school year.

“I would prefer it kinda grow slowly,” Carney said during a news conference on Tuesday.

Ryland Barton

With hundreds of protesters assembled outside, Sen. Mitch McConnell held a contentious town hall-type event in Lawrenceburg on Tuesday.

The Senate Majority Leader refused to answer two questions from opponents in the audience, asking instead for inquiries from those “who maybe actually were interested in what I had to say.”

During a speech, McConnell said that opponents needed to get over the results of the election.

“They had their shot in the election, they certainly had their shot in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “I always remind people winners make policy and losers go home, that’s the way it works.

LRC Public Information

Lawmakers have given initial approval to a plan to “defund” Kentucky’s Planned Parenthood locations in Lexington and Louisville by putting the organization at the back of the line for federal family planning dollars.

Bill sponsor Sen. Max Wise said the organization had a “notorious history as an abortion provider” and said he filed the bill in reaction to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs — allegations denied by Planned Parenthood and later debunked.

“I come before you today thankfully more optimistic about the prospects of protecting unborn life than I was last year when the committee heard this similar bill,” Wise said.

LRC Public Information

Doctors would only be able to prescribe three days’ worth of painkillers under a bill that passed out of a legislative committee on Wednesday.

The legislation would also increase penalties for trafficking fentanyl and other synthetic opioid drugs.

The bill comes as Louisville and other cities and counties around Kentucky are seeing surges in overdoses and deaths related to illicit drugs spiked with fentanyl and other synthetics.

Gov. Matt Bevin threw his support behind the legislation, saying he wants to enhance punishments against dealers of the synthetic drugs.

Ryland Barton

Citing “increasing public interest and media attention,” Kentucky State Police on Wednesday announced the creation of a dedicated unit to investigate police shootings across the state.

The five-person Critical Incident Response Team will automatically investigate if a KSP officer is involved in a shooting and will lend its services to local jurisdictions by request.

Alex Payne, deputy commissioner for Kentucky State Police, said creating the unit was the “right thing to do” in response to societal pressures.

Benefind Homepage-screenshot

Kentucky’s state auditor has released a report detailing problems with last year’s rollout of Benefind, the new online portal for state benefits like health care, food stamps and cash assistance.

Both the administrations of Gov. Matt Bevin, who took office nearly three months before the rollout, and that of former Gov. Steve Beshear, which spearheaded the development of the new system, had identified problems with Benefind before its introduction.

But Michael Goins, communications director for Republican Auditor Mike Harmon, placed the blame for Benefind’s problems squarely on Beshear.

Creative Commons

Gov. Matt Bevin has thrown his support behind a far-reaching criminal justice bill intended to keep those charged with crimes from reoffending after they’re released from prison.

“A job is one of the best ways for a person to not fall back into recidivism, a chance for them to be able to rebuild their lives” Bevin said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The bill is the product of a 23-member panel appointed by Bevin over the summer to recommend a “smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach to criminal justice in Kentucky.”

Supporters said the legislation’s most significant component would allow those with felony records to seek professional licenses where they used to be automatically banned.

Thinkstock

A bill that would give hate crime protections to police officers and emergency responders has passed the Kentucky House of Representatives.

The vote on the so-called “blue lives matter” bill Monday evening sparked a lengthy debate and drew protesters to the House gallery. At one point activists shouted down the proceedings and marched out, escorted by state police.

Chanelle Helm, with Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, called the legislation a racist act of white Republican representatives in the legislature.

Thinkstock

A sweeping criminal justice bill has been filed in the Kentucky General Assembly. It aims to provide workforce training for state prisoners, fight drug addiction and increase penalties for some crimes.

The bill would also ease restrictions on state licensure boards and hiring authorities that bar people with criminal records from getting a license or a job.

But provisions in a draft version of the legislation that called for eliminating the money bail requirement and easing certain felony thresholds did not make the final cut.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville and the bill’s sponsor, said the measure will improve public safety.

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