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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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the so-called “blue lives matter” bill into law. The legislation gives hate crimes protections to emergency responders and police officers.

The controversial policy drew protests throughout its journey through the legislature this year.

Chanelle Helm, an organizer with Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said she was disgusted that Bevin signed the bill into law.

“You know what, they hate us,” Helm said. “They hate us so much that they need hate crime protection. So underneath this law now, they get hate crime protection as if anybody’s out here targeting them.”

Ryland Barton

President Donald Trump urged a crowd in Louisville to support the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare currently making it through the U.S. House of Representatives.

Before a crowd of around 18,000 people packed into Freedom Hall, Trump said the bill was “our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare.”

“Obamacare has been a complete and total catastrophe and it’s getting worse and worse by the day,” Trump said. “And yet you watch the fake media, the fake news, and they try and build it up. It’s a disaster, fellas.”

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

President Donald Trump will host a rally at Freedom Hall in Louisville Monday.

The event comes as the White House continues to pitch the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

A Gallup poll released over the weekend shows the president’s approval rating hitting a new low. According to the poll of 1,500 adults across the country, 37 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president compared to 58 percent who disapprove.

Concerns over the repeal and replace plan have mounted after the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 24 million people would lose health coverage over the next decade under the proposal.

J. Tyler Franklin

With the General Assembly on break for a 10-day “veto period,” Gov. Matt Bevin has begun signing a flurry of bills into law.

Among new laws that will take effect July 1 are a requirement that malpractice claims be evaluated by a “medical review panel” before they head to court; legislation clarifying that religious expression is allowed in public schools; and a measure allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain teaching certificates without taking a test.

Bevin has signed 24 bills into law so far this year, 11 of which were approved Thursday.

Here are some of the new laws:

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

As the dust settles on the main part of the legislative session, the Republican-led General Assembly has passed most of its priorities.

A handful of bills approved in early January have already been signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin. Those include a “right-to-work” law, a repeal of the prevailing wage on public works projects, and anti-abortion legislation.

But a flood of bills — including the authorization of charter schools in Kentucky and REAL ID legislation — passed at the end of session still await the governor’s signature.

Bevin now has a 10-day period to review legislation and either veto bills, sign them into law or ignore them — another way to make them law. The legislature will return on March 29 and 30 for two final working days, during which they will likely give approval to even more bills that haven’t passed yet.

Kentucky LRC

The state legislature has again approved a bill to bring the state into compliance with stricter identification card policies required by the federal government. Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed a similar version of the REAL ID bill last year but indicated he supports it this year.

The bill would create an enhanced driver’s license issued by the state Transportation Cabinet instead of county clerks offices.

Those who opt out of the new license would need additional ID like a passport to board domestic air flights and enter military bases.

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UPDATE 9:31 p.m.: The Kentucky House has approved legislation authorizing charter schools in the state. The final vote was 53-43.

After weeks of not moving, the legislation emerged in a legislative committee Wednesday, passed out of the Senate in the afternoon and the House in the evening.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins objected to the quick pace of the debate.

“For something that is this major, for the public policy of the commonwealth of Kentucky, I think that’s bad business,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s the way we’ve done it on other major reform that has been successful here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

J. Tyler Franklin

State lawmakers are expected to consider a flurry of legislation over the next days as time runs out on this year’s General Assembly.

Bills dealing with charter schools, reducing criminal recidivism and new driver’s license security requirements are among the weightiest pieces of legislation scheduled to be taken up.

Legislators will also consider a measure that would base funding for state universities and technical colleges on areas such as graduation rates and numbers of degrees or credit hours earned.

Lawmakers will meet Tuesday and Wednesday before a designated 10-day break for the governor to veto legislation. Then on March 29 and 30, the legislature will have the opportunity to override vetoes or try and pass more bills.

Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Louisville next Monday. The announcement comes days after Vice President Mike Pence visited the city as he promoted the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The White House has been putting pressure on conservative lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who oppose the repeal and replace plan.

Notice of the event was sent out by Trump’s campaign committee, not the White House. The rally will be the third campaign-style event Trump has held since his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Ryland Barton

Vice President Mike Pence stopped in Louisville Saturday to pitch the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“The Obamacare nightmare is about to end,” Pence said before a crowd of about 150 business owners.

The visit came as President Trump tries to rally support for the plan, especially among conservatives like Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who favors an outright repeal of Obamacare.

“Folks, let me be clear,” Pence said. “This is going to be a battle in Washington D.C. And for us to seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all we need every Republican in Congress and we’re counting on Kentucky.”

Creative Commons

A controversial bill that would change the way local school districts assign students to schools is running out of time as lawmakers close in on the final four working days of the General Assembly.

The bill would give priority to students who live closest to schools — and would likely mean the end of Louisville’s anti-segregation program designed to mingle students from different races, backgrounds and parts of town in the same schools.

The measure passed the state House of Representatives two weeks ago, but it hasn’t yet had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, which is the next step in the legislative process.

Kentucky LRC

The chair of the Senate Education Committee says he expects a revised version of the charter schools bill to be presented next week so that lawmakers have time to pass the legislation before time runs out on the General Assembly.

Lawmakers have been meeting privately with interest groups this week and several disagreements remain over whether to allow the schools to take root statewide, how many entities should be able to authorize charters and how to ensure the organizations won’t sap money from traditional public schools.

“I anticipate there probably would be agreement on the bill but again, I can’t be 100 percent on it,” says Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green. “I feel pretty confident that we will end up with a charter school bill.”

Wilson says there are issues that need to be “cleaned up” in the bill and that meetings have been taking place between members of both legislative chambers.

“Everybody has kind of different ideas and the whole idea of working together is compromise,” he says.

Jonese Franklin

UPDATE: President Donald Trump will not be coming to Kentucky this weekend, despite earlier reports saying he would.

Trump’s travel plans for the weekend have not yet been finalized, according to a White House official, but there aren’t plans to come to Louisville despite earlier reports that the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a “VIP Movement Notification” for Louisville — an alert that has preceded previous Trump visits across the country.

LRC Public Information

The President of the state Senate has filed a change to a bill that would strip power from the attorney general and give the governor exclusive authority to represent the state in many legal matters.

On Wednesday morning, attorney general Andy Beshear called the measure “an unprecedented power grab and one of the worst constitutional overreaches since the adoption of our current constitution.”

“The attorney general is not the governor’s lawyer, he’s not the General Assembly’s’ lawyer, he is the people’s lawyer,” Beshear said. “Because, as the Supreme Court explained, in Kentucky, the people are the sovereign, the people are the king. Not the government and not the governor.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Mark Goebel

A bill that would lift the moratorium on nuclear power plants in Kentucky is nearing final passage in the General Assembly.  The bill has already passed the state Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the full House of Representatives.

Tom FitzGerald with the Kentucky Resources Council has called nuclear power a bad deal for future generations.

“We get the cheap energy and we saddle future generations for a millennia with the responsibility to be mature enough to properly manage the waste that we’re generating," FitzGerald remarked.

The legislation would change state law requiring plants to have a way to permanently dispose of nuclear waste.  Nuclear facilities would be allowed to temporarily store waste on site.

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