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’s proposal for how Kentucky should spend public money over the next two years would eliminate the state’s share of funding for health insurance used by retired teachers.

Bevin’s budget would also do away with subsidies that about 3,500 employees use to pay for health insurance of dependents.

During a meeting of the Public Pension Oversight Board, budget director John Chilton said the state can’t afford the programs.

J. Tyler Franklin

This week, Gov. Matt Bevin presented his proposal for how the state should spend its money over the next two years. In his budget address, Bevin called for cutting spending, putting more money into the pension systems and totally eliminating 70 programs across state government.

Bevin argues additional funding is necessary for the state’s unfunded pension liability, but critics say the reductions will cut some key services to the bone, or end them entirely.


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The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would expand Kentucky’s rape and sodomy laws, making it illegal for 16- and 17-year-olds to have sex with people age 28 or older.

Current Kentucky law allows for 16- or 17-year-olds to have consensual sex.

Rep. Jason Petrie, a Republican from Elkton, said the legislation would provide more protections for young Kentuckians.

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Governor Matt Bevin’s budget bill would keep per-pupil funding for Kentucky’s public education students at its current level. But the plan would still chip away at support programs and requires local school districts to pay a larger share of student transportation costs.

Administration officials say budget pressures created by the pension crisis has made it “harder to protect” public education from cuts.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin proposed cutting most state spending by 6.25 percent over the next two years and eliminating 70 programs across state government during his budget address Tuesday evening.

The new proposal comes after Bevin signed a two-year budget that cut most state spending by nine percent in 2016.

Bevin said the reductions would allow the state to set aside more money than it ever has for the ailing pension systems — about $3.3 billion, or 15 percent of state spending.

J. Tyler Franklin

Ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Commonwealth and budget address, Gov. Matt Bevin has hinted at major spending cuts and eliminating entire sections of state government to set aside more money for the public pension systems.

Administration officials say Kentucky needs an additional $700 million for the pension systems — about 20 percent of all state spending.

Bevin hasn’t said what specific programs would be targeted or spared from budget cuts. But during an interview on KET last week, the governor promised to preserve funding for education, infrastructure, law enforcement and services for the most vulnerable in the budget.

Ryland Barton

This week, the state legislature continued to preoccupy itself with a sexual harassment scandal in the House of Representatives. After saying he would resign, and then he wouldn’t, Rep. Jeff Hoover formally resigned his post as Speaker of the House.

Meanwhile, a new pension bill still hasn’t emerged. But on Friday, Gov. Matt Bevin got some good news in the form of federal approval for his proposal to overhaul the state’s Medicaid system.

Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton has this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled.


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A month ago, Republican leaders of the state legislature said they hoped to pass major changes to the state’s pension systems within the first two weeks of the legislative session.

The first two weeks are now in the books and a new pension bill isn’t in sight ahead of Gov. Matt Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth and Budget address on Tuesday evening.

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Kentuckians with certain medical conditions would be able to get a prescription for cannabis under a bill filed by two Democratic lawmakers and promoted by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The 65-page bill would make it legal to smoke, ingest or grow cannabis — the scientific name for marijuana — with a prescription and would be regulated by the state agency that deals with alcohol production and sales.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

So far, nine Democratic members of the Kentucky House of Representatives have announced they won’t seek re-election to the Republican-dominated chamber this November.

Some of the lawmakers are pursuing local elected offices, others are just retiring. And Democrats maintain that the exodus is not due to the frustrations of being the minority party in a state that has a Republican legislature and governor for the first time in history.


Alix Mattingly

The Kentucky House has voted to do away with a special committee that was investigating allegations that former House Speaker Jeff Hoover sexually harassed a staffer.

The bipartisan committee was created after 8 Republican lawmakers filed a complaint against Hoover under a new disciplinary rule last week.

The House voted 90-0 to abolish that rule on Wednesday.

Ryland Barton

State Rep. Jeff Hoover may have stepped down from his position as speaker of the House, but he’s not going away quietly.

Hoover continues to lash out against fellow lawmakers who filed a complaint to have him expelled from the chamber because of sexual harassment allegations.

That complaint process was created under a week-old disciplinary rule, which Hoover said was written to specifically punish him — it creates an investigatory committee if at least two lawmakers file a complaint against another member.

J. Tyler Franklin

House Speaker Jeff Hoover has submitted a letter of resignation and will officially step down from the speakership after saying he wouldn’t do so last week. He will keep his seat in the state House of Representatives.

Hoover delivered a fiery speech Monday, denying that he sexually harassed a staffer and accusing Gov. Matt Bevin and fellow lawmakers of spreading “lies from hell.”

“[Bevin] said we were sexually involved. He said that we were texting when this staffer was a teenager,” Hoover said. “Ladies and gentleman, I will tell you and I will tell this governor, those are lies from the deepest pits of hell.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky General Assembly was back in session this week and despite promises to come up with solutions to the state’s pension crisis, much of lawmakers’ attention has been on the sexual harassment scandal still unfolding in the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover’s name was back up on the lectern at the front of the House of Representatives, despite promises to step down last year after allegations surfaced that he had secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a former staffer and tried to cover it up.


J. Tyler Franklin

special committee investigating sexual harassment allegations against House Speaker Jeff Hoover met for the first time Friday.

The panel was formed after a group of eight Republican lawmakers filed a formal complaint against Hoover seeking his expulsion from the legislature.

The group says Hoover “irreparably damaged” the reputation of the state House of Representatives by allegedly sexually harassing a staffer and signing a confidential settlement agreement to cover it up.

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