Supporters of right-to-work laws have had a hard time passing legislation in Kentucky through the Democrat-controlled House and governor’s office.

But if Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin is elected, the House’s slim eight-person majority would be the only thing standing in the way of the legislation, which would forbid unions from demanding dues from its members as a condition of employment.

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called Bevin a “Scott Walker clone,” comparing him to the Wisconsin governor known for anti-union politics.

“Right to work laws really undermine the ability of all workers to have a decent standard of living by undermining the ability of unions to negotiate effective contracts," Londrigan stated.

Right-to-work legislation was the Republican-led Senate’s top priority in the 2015 General Assembly. The body passed the measure in the first days of the session.

Earlier this summer, Governor Steve Beshear said the policy would do nothing to bring jobs to the state, calling it "artificial political issue.”

Local Right to Work Case Heads to Federal Court

Aug 4, 2015
Lisa Autry

A federal judge will hear arguments on Tuesday about whether a Kentucky local government can stop employers from making workers join labor unions.

At least 12 counties in Kentucky have passed so-called "right to work" ordinances, the only such ordinances in the country. Labor leaders sued Hardin County after it passed its ordinance. Advocates say the ordinances help the counties attract jobs while labor leaders say it would hurt their negotiation power and could lead to lower wages.

It has become an issue in Kentucky's race for governor. Democratic nominee Jack Conway is also the state attorney general. His office put out an opinion last year saying local governments do not have the authority to pass such laws. Republican nominee Matt Bevin supports the laws saying it is the only way to keep Kentucky competitive.

Lisa Autry

A right-to-work lawsuit against Hardin County will be heard Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville. 

Attorney Buddy Cutler is representing nine labor unions that filed the federal lawsuit.

"Our main argument is that under the National Labor Relations Act, only states, and not counties or cities have the right to pass so-called right-to-work ordinances," Cutler told WKU Public Radio.

Attorney Jason Nemes is co-counsel for Hardin County where magistrates passed a local right-to-work law in January. 

Nemes argues the National Labor Relations Act leaves local governments free to act on right-to-work laws.

"When Congress passes a statute that says states may or may not do something, that includes political subdivisions, and in Kentucky, that would include counties," Nemes added.

After years of stalled efforts to pass statewide legislation, twelve Kentucky counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances which allow employees to work in union businesses without paying union dues. 

A ruling on the lawsuit against Hardin County is expected in the fall.

Nelson County Sheriff's Office

Today marks one month since a Bardstown mother of five went missing.  Thirty-five-year-old Crystal Rogers’ car was found with a flat tire on the Bluegrass Parkway in Nelson County.  Her keys, purse, and cell phone were still inside. 

Her mother Sherry Ballard says the search is exhausting but she's not giving up hope.

"Getting out there searching every day, it's hot, it's tiring, and you get discouraged because you don't find anything," Ballard told WKU Public Radio.  "It gets unbearable sometimes but we have to keep looking."

Rogers was last seen on her boyfriend’s family farm on July 3.  The farm has been searched, as well as a nearby lake. 

The boyfriend, Brooks Houck with whom she has a child, took a lie detector test but the results were inconclusive.  He maintains he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Gregory Bourke

A decision this week by the Boy Scouts of America to allow same-sex leaders has a Louisville man ready to serve.

Greg Bourke was the leader of his son’s troop for 11 years before he was forced out for being openly gay. That was three years ago.  This week, the organization ended its ban on gay adult leaders.  Bourke says it was time. 

"This organization has been around for 105 years and any organization that is going to survive that long has to be willing change with the times," Bourke told WKU Public Radio.

Bourke plans to re-apply for Boy Scout leadership and is cautiously optimistic. The new policy gives troops affiliated with religious organizations the freedom to choose leaders that fit their beliefs. 

Bourke’s troop is chartered by the Catholic church he attends and he says the church itself has been supportive.  The decision, though on whether he’ll be allowed back as a troop leader, will come from the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Barren County Detention Center

A former Barren County magistrate was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with terroristic threatening, assault, and menacing. 

According to the arrest citation, Chris Steward is accused of twisting the wrist of an 18-year-old member of his family and waving a knife at her. 

His wife told police she felt her life was threatened when Steward made the statement that “he would go to a funeral before he would go through another divorce.” 

Steward was arrested at his home in Park City around 2:00 am Thursday.  He was taken to the Barren County Detention Center and later released on bond. 

Steward is due in court on August 10.

Rowan County has filed a response to a lawsuit against the county and its clerk, Kim Davis, who stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal.

The county says it can’t be held liable for Davis’ actions, noting that the clerk “performs a state function and does not act on behalf of, or set policy for, the county.”

Davis and her attorneys say that her actions are protected by state and federal religious freedom laws, which prevent the state from burdening an individual’s religious beliefs.  The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking damages against the county and Davis.

Rowan County is one of at least two counties that have stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling.

A ruling in the suit should come the week of August 11.

The mayor of Bowling Green says the city continues to examine how it conducts hiring for all of its departments.

The move was prompted by a federal investigation into how the city makes hiring decisions related to its police force. A Department of Justice investigator is scheduled to visit the city on August 13.

A letter from the DOJ to the city said only five-percent of Bowling Green’s sworn police personnel are African-American.

Speaking Wednesday following a speech to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club, Wilkerson said he’s in favor of a “color blind” hiring process for all city departments. The mayor believes it’s important for the city’s minority communities to see a police department they can relate to.

“How better to gather trust in that community than if they see someone who looks like them, or who can speak their language,” the mayor said.

Nelson County Sheriff's Office

A search and recovery team from the Louisville Metro Police Department is back at work Wednesday in Nelson County. 

Authorities won’t say what they are looking for, but Sherry Ballard suspects the search is for her daughter Crystal Rogers, who’s been missing for nearly a month.

"It's hard because we're praying that we find something just to know where she's at, and at the same time, we're praying we don't find nothing, because we know if we find something here, it's not going to be the outcome we're looking for," Ballard told WKU Public Radio.

The lake is not far from Rogers’ boyfriend’s family farm where she was last seen July 3.  Two days later, her car was found with a flat tire on the Bluegrass Parkway in Nelson County.  

Jenean Hampton

The Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame will announce the 2015 class of inductees Wednesday. 

Among them is Kentucky’s Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.  Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green joined the Air Force after graduating from high school in Detroit.

"I was one of the only people in my class who did not to go to work for one of the big three automakers," Hampton told WKU Public Radio.  "I wanted to do something more important than make cars so I joined the Air Force instead as a computer systems officer."

Hampton spent seven years in the Air Force, which included a deployment to Desert Storm. 

She will join 24 other veterans in a formal induction ceremony in Frankfort in September. 

Hampton is on a ticket headed by GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin.  They will face Democratic nominee Jack Conway and his running mate Sannie Overly in the November election.

The Bardstown community has launched a social media campaign to help in the search for a missing woman.  Crystal Rogers hasn’t been seen in three weeks.  

Local businesswoman Mary Taylor decided to challenge other businesses in the area to purchase shirts that read “Pray for Crystal.”  Business owners then take pictures of their employees wearing the shirts and post them on social media. 

Taylor said it's important to keep Rogers' name alive.

The goal of the campaign is to raise $100,000 to place in a trust fund for Rogers’ five children.

"We just got to thinking about the financial cost of raising five kids while they're searching for their mother, and however the case ends up, how large that cost would be for grandparents and other family members over the next however many years, for five children," Taylor told WKU Public Radio.

Rogers' car was found abandoned on the Bluegrass Parkway with a flat tire. 

Her boyfriend was the last person to see her on July 3.  He took a polygraph but the results were inconclusive.

Flickr/Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

The chance for the public to comment on whether the state should keep a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol rotunda closes on Wednesday.

Members of the Historic Properties Advisory Commission will then discuss findings at a special meeting held on Aug. 5.

The statue’s presence in the Capitol building has come under criticism in the wake of a mass shooting last month in a historically African American church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, the man accused in the shooting, was depicted holding a Confederate flag in photos posted online.

Prominent Kentucky officials including Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, Attorney General Jack Conway and leaders of both chambers of the state legislature have called for the removal of the statue.

On Thursday, Kentucky’s parks department and state fair board voted to prohibit the sale of confederate flags.

Boyle County Detention Center

The former preacher charged with three counts of murder in a shooting in a Danville pawn shop in 2013 has been found competent to stand trial.

Commonwealth Attorney Richard Bottoms told local media Monday that Kenneth A. Keith's trial will move forward, starting with a status hearing Sept. 1.

The competency hearing suffered several delays because of several changes in Keith's defense attorneys.

A public defender, Sandra E. Downs, has been appointed and Keith has pleaded not guilty.

Keith is accused of fatally shooting and killing three people in October 2013 at a Danville pawn shop. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Keith was a pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside. He was evaluated at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Hospital in La Grange.

Somerset Police Department

The Somerset Police Department will soon have an extra set of eyes in the sky. 

According to the FAA, it’s the first law enforcement agency in Kentucky to receive federal approval to fly an unmanned aircraft. 

Captain Shannon Smith said it should not be confused with a military-type drone.

"It's not a spy plane as some people have called it," Smith told WKU Public Radio.  "It's designed as an aerial photography platform and that's exactly how we intend to put it into play."

The drone will supplement the department’s existing gyroplane.  Smith says the un-manned aircraft will be especially helpful in search and rescues.  It could also be used in criminal investigations to gather evidence, though police would still need to obtain search warrants. 

The aircraft is expected to be off the ground by the end of summer.

An effort is underway in Owensboro to help prevent drunk driving. 

A program called SafeRide provides free rides to people who have consumed too much alcohol at restaurants and bars, or any venue that serves alcoholic beverages. 

One of the architects of the program is City Commissioner Bob Glenn who says the service is needed in Owensboro which is home to four colleges.

"We have lots of young people with a social life," Glenn told WKU Public Radio.  "We have a convention center with thousands of guests every week attending events where alcohol is served, and we're a city that has a lot of festivals where alcohol is served."

Businesses can purchase $10 vouchers that can be given out to customers who are intoxicated.  The vouchers can be used for a free cab ride home.  The city partnering with Yellow Cab, but hopes to add other taxi companies and a limo service in the future. 

One restaurant is already participating and Glenn expects more to come on board by the end of summer.

The program does not use taxpayer dollars, and is instead, funded through voucher sales and private donations.