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

Students from across Kentucky traveled to the state Capitol to rally against gun violence as part of demonstrations that took place across the country on Wednesday.

More than 40 students from Marshall County High School made the three-and-a-half hour trip to Frankfort.

Marshall County Junior Leighton Solomon was one of several students to speak at the rally. She called on lawmakers to put politics aside and come up with solutions to school violence.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called teachers who oppose the Republican plan to overhaul the state’s pension systems “selfish,” saying it was “bizarre” that they would protest the proposal to cut their retirement benefits.

During an interview on WVLC radio in Campbellsville on Tuesday, Bevin compared protesting teachers to people who hoarded rationed goods during World War II.

Ryland Barton

The leader of the state Senate said there is a “limited and difficult path forward” for the Republican plan to overhaul the state’s pension systems because there isn’t enough support among lawmakers.

Senate President Robert Stivers also said that as a result, the Senate would likely not consider a bill to provide relief to local governments from ballooning contributions into the pension systems scheduled to begin in July.

Stivers said without structural changes to the pension system, the legislature can’t afford to let local governments pay less than already planned.

Ryland Barton

Students from across Kentucky traveled to the state Capitol to rally against gun violence as part of demonstrations that took place across the country on Wednesday.

More than 40 students from Marshall County High School made the three-and-a-half hour trip to Frankfort.

Marshall County Junior Leighton Solomon was one of several students to speak at the rally. She called on lawmakers to put politics aside and come up with solutions to school violence.

Nicole Erwin

In the wake of the January shooting at Marshall County High School, Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill that would require schools to employ mental health professionals to recognize symptoms of trauma in students.

Rep. Will Coursey, a Democrat from Symsonia whose district includes the high school, said the bill was “born out of tragedy.”

“But we firmly believe that if implemented, this piece of legislation would certainly spare us tragedy in the future,” Coursey said.

LRC Public Information

After Republican leaders of the state Senate scrapped a critical vote to change retirement benefits for public workers last week, it’s unclear when or if the legislation will come back up for a vote.

Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill’s supporters were working with members of the Senate and House to see “what can or cannot be changed to get votes in both chambers.”

Meanwhile, tensions have continued to rise over the bill after the no-vote, and teachers and state workers have continued to pack the state Capitol in protest of proposed reductions.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The widow of a state lawmaker who killed himself late last year will not run in this year’s primary or general elections to fill her husband’s vacant seat.

Rebecca Johnson announced her candidacy the day after the death of her husband Rep. Dan Johnson, a pastor from Bullitt County, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in December.

Days before, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting began publishing a five-part series of Johnson detailing years of deceptive behavior, alleged arson and the alleged sexual assault of a minor.

J. Tyler Franklin

This week in Kentucky politics, the state Senate decided to not vote on a controversial pension bill as teachers and other state workers protested at the state Capitol. It’s unclear how the legislation might be revised and lawmakers only have a little more than two weeks until a major deadline in this year’s legislative session.

Listen to this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled in the player below.


Ryland Barton

After teachers and other public workers descended on the state Capitol Friday to protest a bill overhauling Kentucky’s pension systems, the state Senate decided to not take a vote on the measure.

Senate President Robert Stivers said as late as Thursday evening that there were enough votes to pass the bill, which would alter benefits for state workers, especially teachers.

But after hours of closed-door meetings on Friday, Stivers said the Senate’s Republican majority wanted more time to consider the issue.

LRC Public Information

Local officials would be able to boost the salaries of teachers in struggling public schools in order to make the positions more attractive to job applicants, under a bill that passed a state Senate committee on Thursday.

Senate Bill 152 would only apply to schools that the Kentucky Department of Education considers to be in “targeted” or “comprehensive support and improvement” status.

Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg, said the legislation would make poor-performing schools more attractive to experienced teachers.

Wikimedia Commons

As federal corruption investigations swirl in college basketball, Kentucky lawmakers are considering a measure that would tighten regulations that apply to sports agents.

In recent months, both University of Kentucky and University of Louisville men’s basketball programs have been scrutinized for possible pay-to-play schemes in which sports agents paid or loaned money to recruits or their families.

Ryland Barton

Gov. Matt Bevin says teachers are wrongfully attacking him for pushing to overhaul the state’s ailing pension systems, saying they’re either “ill-informed or willfully blind.”

The comment came in response to an angry group of educators who protested a state Senate committee’s passage of a bill that cuts benefits for retired public school teachers.

Though Bevin hasn’t explicitly endorsed the Senate plan, he said teachers should appreciate his approach to fix the public worker retirement programs.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin was non-committal when asked what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum.

The policy could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries — the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives — and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect.

J. Tyler Franklin

There is no state in the country where women hold a majority of seats in a state legislature.

The best is Arizona, with 40 percent. Kentucky is one of the worst, with women only representing 17 percent of state legislative districts.

But that could change this year, because nearly 100 women have filed to run for the Kentucky General Assembly.


ThinkStock

This week in Frankfort, the state House of Representatives dropped its version of the budget, which scaled back some of the cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Lawmakers are more than two-thirds the way through this year’s legislative session and talk of tax reform has resurfaced, and it’s still unclear how some major issues will shake out. Listen to this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled in the player below.


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