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.

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In the wake of former FBI director James Comey’s testimony about his dismissal by President Donald Trump, Democrats and Republicans are both claiming victory.

During a three-hour public hearing Thursday, Comey said Trump and the White House lied “plain and simple” about his firing.

Comey contradicted Trump’s claims that he fired the former FBI director because of his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation and that rank-and-file FBI members had lost confidence in him.

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President Donald Trump will be across the river from Kentucky today to promote his infrastructure plan.

And if Trump’s previous remarks are any indication, the plan could be heavily influenced by a Kentuckian who’s been dead for 165 years.

In the early 19th century, Kentucky congressman and later senator Henry Clay proposed a system of high taxes on imported goods to fund improvements like roads, canals and bridges. Trump has compared his own philosophy of protectionism to Clay’s.


J. Tyler Franklin

In a new book, former Gov. Steve Beshear defends his administration’s approach to the Affordable Care Act, funding cuts to the state’s ailing pension systems and same-sex marriage.

The Democratic governor left office in 2015 and says his 361-page book “People Over Politics” is about bringing different political stripes together.

“I spent eight years as governor of Kentucky with divided government,” Beshear said. “I had a Republican Senate and Democratic House and I was a Democratic governor, but after elections were over with I was able to bring people together.”

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s attorney general is continuing criticism of Gov. Matt Bevin’s purchase of a mansion in suburban Louisville.

The Courier-Journal first reported that Bevin and his family moved into an estate in Anchorage that was previously owned by a political donor appointed by the governor to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board.

The Bevins seemingly got a more than a $1 million discount on the home compared to the county’s official property estimate.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said during a news conference on Tuesday that there “continues to be a lot of smoke” stemming from the issue.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday that companies have promised to invest $5.8 billion in Kentucky so far this year, breaking a previous yearly record of $5.1 billion.

The governor credited the state’s “right-to-work” law for the commitments. The policy makes union dues optional, and supporters say it makes the state more attractive to companies looking to move to or relocate in the state.

“The decisions made in the legislature matter,” Bevin said. “And the net result of this is a sense of enthusiasm in the business community for what’s happening in Kentucky like it has never happened before.”

Ryland Barton

Gov. Matt Bevin is criticizing news coverage of his family’s move into a mansion in suburban Louisville earlier this year, saying questions over the home’s purchase are misplaced.

After an economic development announcement Friday afternoon, Bevin ranted for 12 minutes about several news outlets’ coverage of the transaction.

The Courier-Journal first reported that a home the Bevins moved into in March is owned by an organization called Anchorage Place LLC.

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Two union groups have filed a lawsuit to block Kentucky’s new “right-to-work” law.

That law prohibits unions from being able to collect what are known as “fair share fees”.

Those fees are imposed on non-union employees in exchange for the benefits of being in a unionized workplace.

In January, Kentucky became the 27th state to pass such a measure, which supporters say makes the state more competitive when trying to get companies to move to or expand in Kentucky.

Kentucky AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan said the new law is part of a political strategy to stifle union voices.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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