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 is taking his proposed pension changes on the road this week, pitching business groups across the state about his bill that would — among other things — move most future and some current state workers onto 401(k) style plans.

The plan has drawn fire from state employees who worry that future hires and current workers affected by the changes would receive less-generous benefits from the state.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin Monday defended his proposal to change the state’s pension systems before a group of business leaders in Lexington.

Late last week, Bevin released a much-anticipated draft of a bill that would move most future and some current retirees onto less-generous 401(k)-style plans.

The proposal would also tweak benefits to current employees and retirees, drawing fire from state employee groups that say the changes would be illegal.

Thinkstock

Gov. Matt Bevin has released a much-anticipated draft of a bill that would make massive changes to the state’s pension systems, which are facing critical financial problems. The 505-page proposal was crafted with Republican leaders of the state legislature and aligns with a summary of recommended changes Bevin presented a little more than a week ago.

If implemented, over the coming decades the plan would mostly phase out the state’s use of a pension system that guarantees benefits to state retirees for life.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky’s state budget director said Gov. Matt Bevin will soon enact mid-year budget cuts to help avoid a projected revenue shortfall at the end of the fiscal year.

Earlier this month, a panel of economists tasked with predicting how much money the state will bring in projected the state would be about $155 million short of its initial estimates.

That move cleared the way for Bevin to make an official budget reduction plan — spending cuts to state agencies that don’t have to go through the conventional budgeting process.

WFPL News

A fired staff member of the State Board of Elections is alleging that the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office improperly handled voter information and awarded a security contract to a campaign donor without proper approval.

Matt Selph, who was the assistant director of the State Board of Elections until Tuesday, said he was fired for “asking questions” about the operations of the board, which is chaired by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Ryland Barton

A judge has once again ruled that Kentucky has to pay the legal fees of those who successfully sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015 after she refused to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The decision comes after Gov. Matt Bevin asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to reconsider an order for Kentucky to pay the plaintiffs about $224,000 in fees.

In an order issued Monday, Bunning said that the governor’s office “simply — and improperly — re-argued matters that have previously been decided.”

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court is renewing his call to lawmakers to redraw judicial boundaries in the state to ease caseloads in local courts.

Chief Justice John Minton said there is “urgent need” to redraw the boundaries of several judicial circuits where populations have shifted over the century — the last time the lines were changed.

“It almost doesn’t bear to comment that the population of our state has redistributed, which has altered the workload demands of the courts needed to serve the local communities,” Minton said.

Thinkstock

Representatives of state employees, teachers and police officers aren’t happy with Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to offer less-generous retirement plans and tinker with state worker benefits in an effort to save the state’s ailing pension systems.

David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said the organization will hold a “torches and pitchforks” rally at the state capitol if Bevin calls a special legislative session for lawmakers to vote on the proposal.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican leaders of the state legislature have released a proposal that would make major changes to the retirement plans for teachers and other state workers.

The proposal would phase out the state’s use of a defined-benefit pension system, which guarantees payments to state employees throughout their retirements.

Instead, nearly all future and some current employees would be moved into defined contribution plans like 401(k)s, which will require the state to put less money into employee retirements.

Bevin said the changes are necessary to keep the pension system alive.

“If you are a retiree, if you are working toward retirement and hoping to retire at some point, you should be rejoicing at this bill,” Bevin said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin and the Republican leaders of the state legislature will unveil a proposal to fix Kentucky’s ailing pension systems Wednesday morning.

In a press release issued late Tuesday the governor’s office said that Bevin, House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers will present “a comprehensive plan to save Kentucky’s ailing public pension systems” in the State Capitol at 9 a.m.

“There have been hours and hours and hours of discussion among legislators and our administration in dialing this in. We are getting close,” Bevin said in a recorded statement.

Creative Commons

A surge in the number of people receiving disability benefits in Kentucky is partly due to the state’s aging baby boomer population and other demographic trends, according to a left-leaning think tank.

Last week, state officials released a report documenting the swell of Kentuckians receiving disability payments through social security. The study accused the Social Security Administration of boosting enrollment in the disability insurance program through lax enrollment policies.

J. Tyler Franklin

A panel of economists has voted to officially reduce the prediction of how much money Kentucky will bring in this year.

The move means Gov. Matt Bevin now has the authority to make budget cuts to fill an estimated $155 million deficit.

In August, the Consensus Forecasting Group initially predicted that the state would have a $206.2 million shortfall, prompting Bevin to direct most state agencies to make plans for cutting spending by 17.4 percent.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear walked out of a committee hearing Thursday after Republican lawmakers interrogated him about a settlement the previous attorney general made with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

Beshear called the questioning “grossly political” and accused Republican lawmakers of continuing fights left over from political campaigns.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

State officials say too many people are getting disability benefits in Kentucky, citing a new state report that shows disability enrollment has far outpaced the state’s population growth over the last 35 years.

The report was prepared by Kentucky’s Disability Determination Services and echoes rhetoric used by Gov. Matt Bevin in his push to revamp the state’s Medicaid system. Bevin wants to require beneficiaries to pay small premiums and prove they’re working, volunteering or seeking a job.

Alix Mattingly

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says she will donate campaign funds contributed to her 2014 race for U.S. Senate by embattled Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

The Republican Party of Kentucky called on Grimes to donate the contributions to a charity after the New York Times published an article last week detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

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