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The award-winning news team at WKU Public Radio consists of Dan Modlin, Kevin Willis, Lisa Autry, and Joe Corcoran.

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Republicans in the Kentucky House have chosen to stay with Representative Jeff Hoover of Jamestown as their leader, despite a challenge from Representative Adam Koenig of Erlanger.  Hoover, the Republican Floor Leader, was elected Tuesday to an eighth consecutive term.

Also selected during caucus elections in Frankfort was Representative Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, as House Republican Whip.  Rep. DeCesare replaces Rep. John ‘Bam’ Carney, R-Campbellsville, who had announced at the end of December that he would not seek another term as Whip.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator believes the 7-year-old girl who survived a Friday night plane crash in Kentucky could provide clues as to what caused the incident.

Sailor Gutzler was aboard the small plane that crashed in Lyon County after taking off from Tallahassee, Florida. Her parents, sister, and a cousin died in the accident.

Despite being bloodied and suffering a broken wrist,  Sailor pulled herself from the wreckage and walked a mile in the dark in near-freezing temperatures until she found the nearest home. N.T.S.B investigator Heidi Moats says it’s rare for someone to survive a small plane crash, and that Sailor could provide clues as to what brought the plane down before it got to its destination in Illinois.

The plane’s remains have been removed from the crash site so that the N.T.S.B. can inspect them.

The Courier-Journal reports that the agency says it will issue a preliminary report on the crash  by the middle of next week.

Sailor was treated at a hospital and released to the care of a relative over the weekend.

Ahead of his presumed bid for president in 2016, Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and his wife are each penning new books set for release this year.

Kelley Paul is getting a jump start on her book tour as she is scheduled to speak to women's groups across the state this week about her new book "True and Constant Friends," which includes essays about inspiring women.  She has appearances scheduled in Russellville, Bowling Green, London, Tompkinsville, Lexington, and Elizabethtown. 

A press release says Paul will speak about her immigrant grandmother who fled poverty in Ireland and traveled alone to the U.S. in 1929 at age 19.  The book will be published in April, around the same time Senator Paul will announce his presidential intentions.

Meanwhile, Senator Paul's third book is scheduled for release in June.  According to his publisher's website, the book is titled "Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America."  It's another likely sign that a White House bid is in the works, as presidential hopefuls often publish books close to the launch of their campaigns.

Simpson County is now the second county in the nation to pass a local right-to-work law. 

The decision was made official this morning after the second reading of an ordinance in Simpson County fiscal court.  A handful of speakers made the case against the ordinance but county leaders still approved the measure unanimously. 

Warren County passed a right-to-work law on December 19th. 

Right-to-work supporters say it gives workers the choice whether to join a union and pay dues, and it will help bring more business to the area.  Opponents claim it's a union buster and drives down employee wages. 

Fulton County will have the final reading of its ordinance Tuesday evening.

Some counties in south-central Kentucky are criticizing their workforce development district and asking the governor to create a new one.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports officials in Warren, Allen, Logan and Simpson  counties have asked Gov. Steve Beshear to establish a workforce development area separate from the Barren River Area Development District. Agency Director Rodney Kirtley says he hopes officials can resolve their differences so the 10-county region can work together.

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said he's unhappy with the workforce investment board's focus and that the current structure doesn't give him the ability to influence action by the agency.

Others say BRADD is trying to be fair to all counties. Edmonson County Judge-Executive N.E. Reed says BRADD provides services to the smaller counties that they couldn't otherwise afford.

WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s unemployment rate continues its downward trend. The Office of Employment and Training announced Thursday the state’s jobless rate was down to six percent in November. 

It’s slightly above the national average in November, but it’s a drop of two-tenths of a percent from October. 

It’s the first time in 6 ½ years the Kentucky unemployment rate has been this low.

HCW Development

City officials in Evansville say they’ll have to start anew on a project to build a downtown convention hotel.  At a press conference Thursday morning, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced that previous plans for a 257-room hotel are being scrapped because of a $6.5 million shortage in funding.

“This is a disappointing delay but it is not a defeat,” said Winnecke.  “We cannot look at it as a defeat.  We are fully committed to building a full-service convention hotel in downtown Evansville. It is what we need and we’ll find a path to victory, I assure you.”

The city had committed $20 million in taxpayer dollars for the project, but Old National Bank wasn’t able to cover the entire $14 million dollars it had originally allocated.

“Are we disappointed? Absolutely,” said Old National Bank CEO and President Bob Jones. “This has been our home for 180 years as an institution.  This community deserves a convention hotel; this community deserves to continue the great momentum we’ve seen.”

The overall cost of the hotel was just over $71 million.   A groundbreaking ceremony took place in March at the proposed building site near the Ford Center, but no construction actually took place.

Hemlock Semiconductor Group is permanently closing its idled polysilicon plant in Clarksville, citing global trade disputes that have led to an oversupply of the compound used in solar energy panels.

The company says 50 Clarksville-based employees will be offered to stay with the company, but will have to relocate.

The company's president, Denise Beachy, announced the decision to the The Leaf-Chronicle on Wednesday.

Construction on the on the plant located near the Kentucky line was begun in 2009, and the facility was close to complete when Hemlock announced in 2013 it would not begin construction because of the supply glut and disputes with China over tariffs.

Hemlock will now work with local officials to decide how to dismantle the facility and to determine which parts can be repurposed for other business uses.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture

The new spending bill that made its way through Congress last week contains language that forbids the federal government from getting in the way of industrial hemp pilot projects being conducted in three states, including Kentucky.

Several universities in Kentucky harvested hemp crops this year, but it came after a standoff between Kentucky and the Justice Department involving a shipment of hemp seeds from overseas.

The Courier-Journal reports Rep. Thomas Massie put the hemp-specific language in an amendment attached to the spending bill.  The commonwealth is currently accepting applications for farmers who want to plant a hemp crop in 2015.  Hemp had been banned in the country for decades.

Water and sewer rates in the city of Bowling Green could be going up as early as February 1st.  Bowling Green Municipal Utilities’ proposal to raise rates will be presented to the City Commission on Tuesday. 

Commissioner and BGMU board member Rick Williams tells the Daily News,  the extra revenue will go to improve aging infrastructure.  Under the proposal, rates would also go up on July 1 of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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