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.

Kentucky LRC

A bill that would give victims of dating violence increased protections passed the House on Thursday evening.

The bill, which has the support of the Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, passed the House unanimously.

But Rep. Donna Mayfield, a Republican from Winchester, expressed concern about the bill, saying that the present system already protects victims.

“I just fear that this opens the floodgates to some situations that may dilute the purity of this situation, the way that we have it in the courts right now,” Mayfield said.

“I’m afraid that those people who desperately need our protection are going to be put in the same pool as a middle school couple, perhaps, that has had a spat.”

Kentucky LRC

A Kentucky House committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would give felons the right to vote. The House has passed a similar bill every year since 2007, but the bills have died or been significantly changed in the Senate.

Janet Tucker, of the advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said  that keeping felons from voting disproportionately affects minority communities.

“Those communities really aren’t getting their full vote in our democracy still, so it’s an important issue for our democracy as well as individuals and their rights as citizens,” Tucker said.

Felons convicted of murder and sex offenses are excluded in the House bill.

A bill that would allow Kentucky’s local governments to increase the sales tax one percent to fund projects is heading to the full House.

The local option sales tax legislation won committee approval today Tuesday.

Under the proposed legislation, local voters would need to approve the temporary tax increase for each project.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer—an enthusiastic supporter of the local option—said the tax could fund the completion of the Louisville Loop, to build parks, and to increase wireless connectivity.

“People know we have many needs, but it’s up to the citizens to decide if those needs would be funded on a temporary basis.”

Critics argue the sales tax would disproportionately hurt poor Kentuckians.

If the measure passes the both chambers of the General Assembly and is approved by Governor Beshear, it would still have to be approved by Kentucky voters in the November election.

The Kentucky House of Representatives now has its own version of a bill that seeks to combat the state’s heroin epidemic.

There are a few key distinctions between the House proposal revealed Monday and the bill that passed the Kentucky Senate earlier this year, including a provision that would allow local health districts to set up needle exchange programs. Needle exchanges have been a major hang-up for Senate Republicans in the past.

Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, said a needle exchange program can be the first point of contact between addicts and people who can help.

“We are at wit’s end in the state, and for the country for that matter, to find things that will actually work, that will actually reduce drug-use that actually will get addicts into treatment, will break the cycle of addiction,” Tilley said.

The so-called “AT&T deregulation” bill is back at the Kentucky General Assembly after failing to make it out of the House last year. It was approved by the Senate.

Among other things, the bill would strip major telephone service providers like AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell of a requirement to offer basic telephone service in markets of more than 15,000 people. The basic plans include local calls, 911 and operator service.

The companies would still be required to offer services in markets of 15,000 people or fewer.

This year the bill has 22 co-sponsors and one of the bill’s biggest opponents is no longer in leadership. Former House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, had opposed the legislation in past sessions, saying it would hurt rural and poor consumers.

The Herald-Leader reported that AT&T spent $108,846 lobbying for the bill last year.

Flickr/Creative Commons

A battle over beer is brewing in Frankfort.

Kentucky microbreweries say out-of-state breweries like Anheuser-Busch shouldn’t be able to own beer distributors in the state—something in-state microbreweries aren’t allowed to do.

A House bill filed by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would close what some call a loophole in Kentucky law, which permits out-of-state breweries to own their own distributorships.

Daniel Harrison, owner of Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, said the bill would make large companies play by the same rules as companies like his.

“If Kentucky breweries can’t own distributorships, or microbreweries, why do we let out-of-state guys?” Harrison said.

Pages