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.

Ryland Barton

A special committee in the state House of Representatives will investigate whether Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover sexually harassed a former staffer.

The committee was formed under a recently-created rule after eight GOP lawmakers filed a complaint against Hoover on Wednesday.

The complaint alleges that Hoover broke the law and “irreparably damaged” the reputation of the state House of Representatives by allegedly sexually harassing a staffer and trying to cover it up.

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Lawmakers are still working on revisions to a massive bill that would overhaul the state’s pension systems, but push-back from public employees and a statehouse sexual harassment scandal have slowed down the process.

In October, Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican leaders of the legislature unveiled a plan that would phase out the state’s use of a pension system that guarantees benefits for life and tinker with benefits of current employees.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky lawmakers attended a mandatory sexual harassment prevention session on Wednesday, a day after the House speaker announced he wouldn’t resign his seat amid a harassment scandal.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said lawmakers took the training session more seriously than in previous years.

“Maybe less laughter in the room,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think our capital is any different from any other workplace. I think there’s always the potential for people to abuse their power and to not be culturally sensitive and not be gender sensitive.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover is not resigning his leadership position, despite saying he would in November after admitting to confidentially settling a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer.

In a statement distributed Tuesday, Hoover said he would temporarily give powers of the speakership to Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne while the Legislative Ethics Commission investigates a complaint that Hoover and his staff retaliated against another staffer for blowing the whistle on the allegations.

Gage Skidmore

During the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers will focus on making changes to the state’s pension systems and passing a two-year state budget.

But legislators are also eyeing making more changes to laws governing how Kentuckians can sue doctors for malpractice — a year after passing a law that requires claims to be reviewed by a panel of doctors before they can head to court.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says he expects former House Speaker Jeff Hoover to officially step down from his leadership position when the legislature goes back into session on Jan. 2.

Hoover announced he was stepping down from his role as speaker last month after admitting he exchanged sexually-charged text messages with a staffer.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says the state will undergo a round of spending cuts in the upcoming legislative session to set aside more money for the struggling pension systems amid sluggish revenue growth.

In 2016, Bevin and the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate crafted a budget that set aside more money for the public retirement systems than ever before: $1.2 billion out of the state’s $21 billion biennial budget.

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Republican leaders of the General Assembly are throwing water on the idea that they’ll make major changes to the state’s tax code during the upcoming legislative session.

Lawmakers have to craft a new two-year budget for the state and are hoping to overhaul the pension systems in the session, which lasts from Jan. 2 until mid-April.

And for the first time in Kentucky history, Republicans will have control of the House, Senate and governorship during a budget-writing session.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson was buried Monday, several days after he killed himself in Bullitt County.

As friends and family gathered at the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville’s Fern Creek neighborhood, the front lawn became a parking lot to accommodate hundreds of Johnson’s mourners, many of whom rode in on motorcycles.


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A panel of economists is more pessimistic about Kentucky’s tax revenue than it was a few months ago. The group revised downward its prediction of how much Kentucky will make in tax revenue by the end of the fiscal year in June.

The Consensus Forecasting Group on Friday predicted that the state will be $156.1 million short of initial projections, down from $155 million predicted in October.

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Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson’s suicide following sexual assault allegations has sent Frankfort reeling.

Johnson, a Republican from Mt. Washington, fatally shot himself next to a bridge in a rural area Wednesday evening after posting an apparent suicide note on Facebook.

Earlier in the week, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an expose of Johnson’s life, including years of deceptive claims, alleged criminal activity and accusations from a woman who says Johnson assaulted her in 2013 when she was 17 years-old.

J. Tyler Franklin

State Rep. Dan Johnson committed suicide Wednesday evening, two days after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published accusations that he sexually assaulted a minor.

Johnson was a preacher from Mt. Washington in Bullitt County. He shot himself on a bridge over the Salt River, according to WDRB.

Johnson posted a suicide note on Facebook Wednesday evening calling the accusations false and telling conservatives to “take a stand.”

Facebook

A Republican state representative from Bullitt County has been accused of sexually abusing a girl in his church, among other misdeeds, in a new investigative report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media.

Rep. Dan Johnson, a preacher and freshman lawmaker from Mt. Washington, had yet to respond to the allegations as of noon Monday. A receptionist at his legislative office said he was not available.

A leader of Kentucky’s state senate says a “watered down” version of Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension proposal is being drafted but it would still shift future workers onto 401(k)-type retirement plans.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he hopes the bill is revealed to the public before Christmas so it can be reviewed in advance of lawmakers’ return for the legislative session that begins on Jan. 2.

Gray Watson/Creative Commons

Kentucky lawmakers are once again considering changing the state’s net metering rules, which allow people to sell electric utilities the extra energy generated from household solar panels or windmills.

Currently, electric utilities are required to buy back excess energy produced by customers at the same price sold to customers. Kentucky lawmakers considered a bill earlier this year that would have allowed utilities to get approval to buy back the energy at lower rates.

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