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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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Democrats and Republicans have selected candidates who will campaign to fill a vacant Kentucky state Senate seat.

Democrat Walter Blevins resigned from the position last Sunday after  being sworn-in as Rowan County’s Judge-Executive.

Voters in the 27th District will choose between Democrat Kelly Caudill and Republican Steve West when they cast ballots March 3.

Caudill is an attorney from Maysville who says his top priorities as state Senator would be boosting economic development in the district, as well as increasing spending for public education and supporting laws that fight drug abuse.

West is a Bourbon County real estate attorney and cattle farmer. If West wins, the GOP will extend its already sizable advantage in the state Senate, which currently stands at 26-11.

The 27th District Senate seat covers Bourbon, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Robertson, and Rowan counties.

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Environmental groups are going to court to argue that Kentucky and West Virginia are doing a poor job of enforcing federal clean water rules.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and others say the states haven’t done enough to control pollution from surface coal mines, causing damage to nearby streams and rivers.

The groups behind the federal lawsuits say they asked the Environmental Protection Agency years ago to rescind Kentucky and West Virginia’s authority over surface coal mine discharges. But the plaintiffs say the EPA never responded to that request.

The Herald-Leader reports the lawsuits are designed to compel the federal agency to act. The suits claim Kentucky doesn’t have enough employees to adequately monitor surface mine pollution, failed to set appropriate limits on pollutants, and issued mining permits under rules that included less scrutiny of applicants.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says his group believes they have been implementing all programs in accordance with state and federal regulations.

WKU

WKU’s all-time leading scorer is having his basketball jersey number retired later this month.

The school announced Thursday that Courtney Lee’s #32 jersey will be retired January 22 during WKU’s game against Texas-El Paso. Lee will become just the tenth person affiliated with the WKU men’s basketballteam to have his jersey retired, joining names such as coach E.A. Diddle, and players Jim McDaniels, Clem Haskins, and Darel Carrier.

Lee played at WKU from 2004-to-2008, scoring 2,238 career points—equaling McDaniels for the most points all time. The Indianapolis native led the Hilltoppers to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and 29-win season his senior year, while averaging over 20 points a game.

Lee was taken in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He has played for five different teams, and currently averages 11 points a game for the Memphis Grizzlies.

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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.

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