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.

LRC Public Information

The leader of the state Senate is making no promises on whether proposals to increase the cigarette tax and create a tax on pain pills will be considered in his chamber.

On Thursday, the Republican-led state House of Representatives passed a revenue bill that would increase the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack and create a 25-cent tax that distributors would have to pay for each dose of opioid pills sold in Kentucky.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said he wants to have more analysis on the issue before weighing in.

Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

A school safety expert told state lawmakers Thursday there’s “no way” arming teachers would make schools safer in the wake of the mass shooting at Marshall County High School.

The Kentucky House and Senate Education committees held a special meeting on Thursday to discuss school safety issues, though no specific pieces of legislation were up for a vote.

President Trump, Gov. Matt Bevin and some Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly have called for allowing teachers to have access to guns on campus in order to defend students against school shooters.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Republican-led Kentucky House of Representatives is set to consider a budget bill that exempts some of state government from spending cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin earlier this year.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee advanced a budget bill that gets rid of Bevin’s proposed 6.25 percent cuts to K-12 programs, higher education institutions and Kentucky State Police.

Ryland Barton

Hundreds of teachers and other state employees packed the Kentucky Capitol on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers presented their new plan to overhaul the state’s ailing pension systems.

Supporters of the measure say it would save the state $4.8 billion over the next 30 years by requiring the legislature to put more money into the pension systems and reducing benefits to current and future retirees.

flickr creative commons Scott Beale

A bill raising the cap on how much packaged beer can be bought from Kentucky microbreweries is nearing final passage from the state legislature.

The measure would allow customers to take home up to 31 gallons of beer — the equivalent of two kegs — from microbreweries. Currently the limit is two dozen 12-ounce beers, or a little over two gallons.

Adam Watson, co-owner of Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville, said the measure would help boost sales out of their breweries and beyond.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says current gun and murder laws didn’t discourage recent school shootings, so people shouldn’t look to gun restrictions to prevent future mass shootings.

“What other law would a child who’s willing to break those three laws have obeyed that would have precluded something like this from happening,” Bevin said during an interview with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”


A special election will be held on Tuesday to fill an eastern Kentucky House district seat vacated by a Republican who retired last year.

The contest will take place in House district 89, which includes Jackson County and parts of Laurel and Madison counties.

Democratic candidate Kelly Smith, an Eastern Kentucky University librarian who lives in Berea, will square off against Republican candidate Robert Goforth, who owns several pharmacies and lives in East Bernstadt in Laurel County.


This week at the state legislature, a new bill overhauling the public pension system was finally filed and it’s a lot different from the proposal made by Gov. Matt Bevin last fall. But, it still reduces benefits to many current and most future state employees while promising massive infusions of cash into the pension systems. Listen to this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled in the player below.

Creative Commons

The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court is asking lawmakers to reorganize the state’s judicial districts to help alleviate heavy caseloads in some courts.

The changes would reallocate judgeships from areas that have light caseloads and consolidate some circuit and district court districts around the state.

Chief Justice John Minton said the gradual migration of people to more urban areas has thrown the current system out of balance.

LRC Public Information

The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Under the proposal, workers who are partially disabled as the result of a job-related injury would only be able to receive benefits for 15 years; after that point they would have to reapply.

The bill is supported by business groups who say it would help reduce workers’ compensation insurance costs.

Rep. Al Gentry, a Democrat from Louisville who lost his arm in a work-related accident, said the bill would shift costs onto injured workers.


Under a new Republican proposal to overhaul Kentucky’s pension systems, most state workers hired since 2014 would no longer get a guaranteed return on their retirement investments in the event of a poorly-performing stock market.

Under the “hybrid cash-balance” plan provided under the new pension bill, lawmakers have only pledged that the accounts won’t lose money during a market downturn.

“It basically shifts more of the risk over to the employee for the investment returns compared to the current plan,” said Jason Bailey with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

J. Tyler Franklin

A new proposal to overhaul Kentucky’s public pension systems has been filed in the state Senate.

Though full details of the proposal hadn’t yet been unveiled by Tuesday evening, Senate Republican leaders say it differs greatly from a version pushed by Gov. Matt Bevin last fall.

Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, said Bevin’s proposal would have cost the state more by shifting most future and some current workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans, known as “401(a)s”.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has filed a lawsuit in response to a legal challenge over Kentucky’s new Medicaid work requirement.

Kentucky is the first state in the country to require people to work or volunteer in order to keep Medicaid benefits.

Three advocacy groups are suing the federal government on behalf of 15 Kentuckians who are on Medicaid, saying the approval of Bevin’s Medicaid changes violate the Social Security Act.

Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

This week in Frankfort, the debate over gun control flared up again after a mass shooting at a school in Florida. Lawmakers have proposed a handful of bills to deal with guns this legislative session, but most of them expand where guns can be carried. Listen to this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled in the player below.


Kentuckians wouldn’t be able to get married until they’re 18 years old, under a bill being considered by the state legislature.

Currently, Kentuckians can get married when they’re 16 if they have permission from their parents. Women can get married at younger ages if they’re pregnant — there is no lower limit.

Donna Pollard got married when she was 16 years old. She said she had trouble finding help after the relationship became abusive.