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.


A state lawmaker said he will file a bill that would legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana for adults in Kentucky as an effort to get more tax revenue for the state’s ailing pension systems.

Sen. Dan Seum, a Republican from Louisville, said that lawmakers have been unwilling to seek out new sources of revenue so far but “desperation might change that.”

“We ought to be looking at creating new sources of revenue before we start looking at new taxes,” said Seum, who is the Senate Majority Caucus Chair.

Erica Peterson

A coal industry advocate told Kentucky lawmakers on Thursday that “coal is not a silver bullet” for the country’s energy needs, but said coal should still play a role as natural gas and renewable energy continue to grow.

Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said power companies should be rewarded for using coal as an energy source.

“Right now coal is not being compensated fairly for some of the attributes it has. For example, coal has a very, very secure fuel supply,” Bailey said during a legislative hearing on Thursday.


A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Kentucky’s historical underfunding of the state’s teacher pension system, but the plaintiffs say they will file the lawsuit again in a state court.

The Teachers Retirement Legal Fund argues that over recent decades, state leaders broke the law by not setting aside enough money for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which manages the pensions of about 141,000 current and retired teachers.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Lawmakers are still keeping tight-lipped on possible changes to the state’s pension systems, saying they’re still privately trying to get consensus among the Republican majority in the state legislature.

Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to call a special legislative session later this year for lawmakers to pass a bill that would make changes to retirement benefits in order to address the state’s massive pension debt.

But Bevin and lawmakers have mostly been non-committal about what changes they’ll make.


During next year’s legislative session, lawmakers will consider adding a “crime victims’ bill of rights” to Kentucky’s constitution.

The measure would create several constitutional guarantees, including a requirement that courts notify victims or their families when an offender is released from custody.

Advocates have pushed for “Marsy’s Law” in recent legislative sessions but the efforts have failed amid concerns that the measure would add costs and give victims an upper hand against those accused of crimes in court proceedings.

J. Tyler Franklin

After Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, Gov. Matt Bevin lashed out at gun control advocates on Twitter Monday morning, saying that regulations aren’t the answer to gun violence.

“To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs…You can’t regulate evil,” he wrote.

Police say more than 50 people died and more than 500 people were injured in the shooting that took place when a 64-year-old man opened fire on a crowded concert from a 32nd story hotel window.

J. Tyler Franklin

University of Louisville’s interim president said he won’t allow “current events and distractions” to keep the school from moving forward as it navigates the latest scandal in a series of troubles.

Interim President Gregory Postel said the school is cooperating with federal prosecutors and the FBI as they investigate what he called a “dramatic story”— allegations that the school’s basketball program was involved in a bribery scandal that funneled money to the families of top basketball recruits.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Supreme Court of Kentucky has ruled in favor of Gov. Matt Bevin in a legal challenge over whether he had the authority to overhaul the University of Louisville’s board of trustees last year.

The high court said the issue was moot because the state legislature approved legislation effectively codifying Bevin’s restructuring of the board earlier this year.

“It is for this reason — a deliberate action by the General Assembly intervening to provide greater clarity of law — that the case today is moot,” the court said in an order dismissing the case.


A state lawmaker says that Kentucky needs to overhaul its constitution and has proposed calling a constitutional convention for the first time since 1891.

Rep. Phil Moffett, a Republican from Louisville, says revamping the constitution would allow the state to streamline how government works.

“We have some basic housekeeping that we should do in that constitution,” Moffett said during a committee presentation. “Remove some antiquated items that are no longer relevant in today’s world. And we also need to modernize the governmental structures and processes.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear were back in court on Wednesday, this time over a challenge to the governor’s reorganization of several education boards this summer.

Beshear argues that the governor illegally suspended laws passed by the legislature when he issued an executive order adding four non-voting advisors to the Kentucky Board of Education and replacing boards that deal with certifying teachers and establishing curriculum standards.


The heads of Kentucky’s ailing pension systems are requesting that the state pay about $1.3 billion more into the funds over the next two years, further straining the state’s cash-strapped budget.

Collectively, the retirement systems for Kentucky’s state workers are among the worst-funded in the nation.

The amount of money needed to keep the systems afloat has snowballed in recent years due to historic underfunding from the legislature, poor investment performance in the wake of the recession and stagnant wages for state employees.

Becca Schimmel

Sen. Rand Paul said he still opposes the GOP’s most recent attempt to repeal elements of the Affordable Care Act, despite changes to the legislation over the weekend.

Paul is one of two Republican senators who came out against an earlier version of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which was tweaked over the weekend to send more Medicaid dollars to states whose senators have voiced opposition to the measure.

At an event in Louisville Monday, Paul called those last-minute changes “suspicious” and said the bill still doesn’t do enough to do away with Obamacare spending.

Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

A state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow Kentuckians to carry concealed firearms without a license.

The legislation would allow people aged 21 or older to carry concealed deadly weapons anywhere already allowed for license-holders.

Rep. Wesley Morgan, a Republican from Richmond and former agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he proposed the bill because he thinks it would bring state law more in line with the Second Amendment.


In the wake of chaotic civil unrest across the country, a Kentucky lawmaker is filing a bill to keep protesters in the state from wearing masks or bringing weapons to public rallies.

A previous version would have exempted firearms from the weapons ban, but the bill has been revised.

Rep. Wesley Morgan, a Republican from Richmond, said he filed the legislation in response to reports of people wearing masks at protests around the country.

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.