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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Though tax receipts into Kentucky’s general fund grew for the seventh year in a row, the state was still short about $135 million compared to predictions.

According to State Budget Director John Chilton, Kentucky was on track to meet predictions until March, when the state saw revenue decline by $50.2 million over three months due to a decrease in corporate revenues.

“The forecasting challenge going forward will be predicting when revenues will reverse the current four-month slide and resume collections more closely aligned with underlying economic growth,” Chilton said in a news release.

Mark Doliner/Creative Commons

As self-driving cars become a reality in other parts of the country, state lawmakers are considering how to regulate the vehicles in Kentucky.

During a legislative hearing Thursday about automated driving, experts said the technology can increase safety and road capacity while reducing traffic congestion and freight costs.

But safety liability concerns remain for some, like Sen. C.B. Embry, a Republican from Morgantown.

Kentucky State Parks

A year after the legislature set aside an extra $18 million to make improvements to Kentucky’s state parks system, officials say the facilities have “turned the corner” on the way to being safer and more inviting to tourists.

Among the improvements made over the last year were reopening the pool at Cumberland Falls State Park, which had been closed for five years, and electrical repairs to the lodge at Barren River Lake State Park “to prevent a catastrophe.”

The lodge at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park also reopened last month after a fire in March 2016.

Bingham, Greenebaum, Doll LLP

Louisville lawyer John Bush is still awaiting a vote on his confirmation by President Donald Trump to be a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. During hearings last month, he dodged questions dealing with controversial blog posts he penned under a pseudonym.

In a post from 2008 on the Elephants in the Bluegrass blog, Bush wrote that the landmark Supreme Court decision dealing with abortion, Roe vs. Wade, was decided by “activist judges.”

He also said that abortion was one of the nation’s “greatest tragedies”—along with slavery. In the post, Bush said both Roe vs. Wade and the Dred Scott case, which denied a black man’s right to sue for his freedom, precipitating the Civil War, relied on similar judicial reasoning.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin has restored the rights to vote and hold public office for 284 Kentuckians with felony criminal records, though he says the action is pending background checks by the state Justice Cabinet.

State law strips people convicted of felonies of their civil rights to vote, run for office, serve on a jury and own firearms.

Governors have the power to restore these rights to people with felony records by issuing pardons for the convictions.

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Today is the day that new laws passed earlier this year by the Kentucky General Assembly take effect.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed more than 130 bills into law, dealing with issues ranging from charter schools to drug control to doubling campaign contributions for state politicians.

This year’s legislative session was the first in which Republicans had control of both the state House and Senate as well as the governor’s office.

Creative Commons

Robert Stivers, the president of the Kentucky State Senate, said he’ll ask to intervene in a legal challenge against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma in order to release documents that deal with a settlement the company made with the state in late 2015.

Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, suggested the case was improperly settled by former Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, saying the $24 million windfall amounted to “pennies on the dollar” of what the state could have gotten.

WKU Public Radio

If approved, the proposal would extend the terms of Kentucky’s next governor and other constitutional officeholders by one year, giving the elected officials five-year stints.

Elections for Kentucky’s constitutional officers are now held during odd-numbered years.

Rep. Kenny Imes, a Republican from Murray, said he proposed the bill to save counties money on elections and break up the nearly constant barrage of elections in Kentucky.

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Gov. Matt Bevin said he wants to find more revenue to put toward Kentucky’s ailing pension systems and overstretched state budget, but not everyone is on board if the governor’s solution would mean tax increases.

Bevin said he wants to call lawmakers back to Frankfort later this year to hammer out a plan that would help the state generate more revenue through economic growth and eliminating tax breaks.

Republican lawmakers have historically been wary of tax increases, but Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, said lawmakers might be forced to consider it given the state’s financial jam.

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Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has asked for his city to be exempted from California’s recently announced ban on state-funded travel to Kentucky.

The travel ban was announced last week by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who accused Kentucky of passing a law that steps on the rights of LGBTQ citizens.

In his letter, Fischer asked Becerra to consider exempting some cities from the restrictions.

“It is my belief that cities like ours should be rewarded for inclusive behavior, not penalized; a waiver would highlight our inclusivity and encourage other cities to follow accordingly,” Fischer said in his letter.

Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

The attorney general of California has added Kentucky to a list of destinations banned from official state travel, saying a new religious expression law passed by the Kentucky General Assembly is discriminatory.

Senate Bill 17 was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin this spring. Supporters say the legislation bolsters First Amendment protections for religious speech in public schools and universities.

Opponents have criticized the new law for language that protects religious and political student groups from being punished for how they select their members.

J. Tyler Franklin

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has unveiled the newest version of a bill to replace many provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Negotiations over the much-anticipated bill were held in private, with even some Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul criticizing the secretive process “with little time to fully evaluate the proposal.”

Paul issued a statement Thursday saying he wasn’t ready to vote in favor of the new bill because it doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Some Kentucky lawmakers want the state to be the next to legalize medical marijuana, at least for end-of-life and hospice care.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said Kentucky shouldn’t be the last state to legalize the drug.

“There are other states doing this, we know there are benefits to doing it, and we know we can do it in a responsible way that provides ready and available relief to a lot of people,” McGarvey said.

Public Domain

Attorney General Andy Beshear has announced he is suing Gov. Matt Bevin over a recent executive order that reorganized several education boards.

The announcement comes after the attorney general previously threatened to sue Bevin over the actions and after the governor changed his executive order late last week.

Beshear said that despite Bevin’s changes, “there are still significant constitutional and legal violations.”

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If Republicans in Congress move forward with their plan to replace Obamacare, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's ideas for the future of the program could also go up in smoke.

About 440,000 people were added to the state’s Medicaid rolls as a result of former Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order to expand the program in 2013, making more people eligible for benefits under the Affordable Care Act.


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