Ryland Barton

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He's 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.

WEKU

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says he’ll take Gov. Matt Bevin to court if he doesn’t rescind subpoenas for information about teachers who participated in protests in Frankfort last month.

Last week, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet demanded information from several school districts identifying the names of teachers who called in sick on the same days that protests took place in Frankfort.

Gov. Matt Bevin has vetoed a bill that would have provided some financial relief to regional universities and agencies like local health departments that are facing massive increases in the amount they have to pay in to the state pension system.

Bevin also said he intends to call a special legislative session to address the issue before July 1 of this year.

A woman who accused former House Speaker Jeff Hoover of sexually harassing her is fighting the Republican lawmaker’s claim that she improperly divulged details of a secret non-disclosure settlement she made with him and four others.

Hoover and two other Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit against the former staffer in Fayette County Circuit Court earlier this year, saying that Marissa Espinosa violated the confidentiality clause in their $110,000 settlement shortly after they signed it on Oct 25, 2017.

Democrat Adam Edelen said that if he is elected governor of Kentucky, he’ll push to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Edelen said Kentucky’s marijuana laws have put strains on families and taxpayers and are disproportionately used against minorities.

In a news conference Monday, Edelen called for eliminating criminal penalties for possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana.

Pat McDonough

Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine gave a speech at the University of Louisville on Monday, urging students to run for office and rise above partisan politics.

Kaine, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, spoke as a guest of the Distinguished Speaker Series at U of L’s McConnell Center.

During his talk, Kaine said combating climate change is the issue that deserves the most attention in the Senate. He said that in his home state, he has to address the worries of constituents in coal communities at the same time as coastal areas.

WFPL.com

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on Monday called the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election a “colossal waste of money and time,” saying that the summary of the investigation released over the weekend vindicated President Donald Trump.

State lawmakers were off this week, but Gov. Matt Bevin has begun the process of signing bills that passed out of the state legislature. Bevin made news by signing two anti-abortion bills that were immediately blocked by a federal judge. And he made controversial comments about vaccinating children.

Jean West from member station WFPL talked to Capitol reporter Ryland Barton for this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled.

A bill that would create an explicit ban on lawmakers sexually harassing their employees and colleagues is advancing in the Kentucky legislature.

The legislature’s ethics code doesn’t currently prohibit sexual harassment, though lawmakers have been punished for harassing staffers under a rule that forbids misuse of their official positions.

  An eastern Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban women from receiving abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which takes place as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

The proposal would be one of the most restrictive abortion policies in the country. Similar measures have failed to pass in other states or been struck down by courts.

  

  Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott has filed a pair of bills for the upcoming legislative session that would eliminate the sales tax on menstrual products and baby supplies.

The proposed exemptions would remove the 6 percent sales tax on tampons, panty liners and other menstrual products as well as diapers, breast pumps and baby bottles.

Wikimedia Commons

  The Kentucky Board of Education has approved new high school graduation requirements, mandating students demonstrate competency in basic math and reading, and complete benchmarks intended to show they are ready for work or college before they can graduate.

The legislature still has to sign off on the policy.

Most of the new requirements will go into effect for freshmen starting high school next fall and the full policy will take effect for subsequent classes.

 

Many board members criticized the measure for not going as far as an earlier proposal.

WEKU.fm

Under Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ original proposal, students would have to prove they are, quote, “transition ready” by meeting benchmark test scores on college entrance exams, getting on-the-job experience or passing college-level courses. 

congress.gov

Huddleston was a Democrat who served two terms in the Senate before being unseated by Mitch McConnell in 1984. 

Huddleston never ran for elected office again, but went on to work as a lobbyist in Washington, and later as chairman of a bank in Elizabethtown. 

In a statement, McConnell mourned the death of his former opponent, saying that Huddleston “proudly served Kentucky and our nation.” 

governor.ky.gov

 

The Kentucky Democratic Party has filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Matt Bevin for tweeting out his support for embattled Congressman Andy Barr’s reelection campaign from his official Twitter account. 

On Saturday, Bevin posted a picture taken in the audience of the rally at Eastern Kentucky University’s Alumni Coliseum, saying he was in a packed house of people who love the president and are supporting Barr’s reelection. 

Kentucky.gov

  The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments over the state’s new pension law on Thursday, months after teachers and other government workers descended on Frankfort to protest changes to retirement benefits.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and a lawyer representing Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s office argued over whether legislators violated the state constitution by rushing the bill to passage in a matter of hours this spring. Changes to retirement benefits in the pension bill mostly affect future state employees but also tweak benefits for some current workers.

Barr.House.Com

Congressman Andy Barr was in Frankfort on Tuesday, touting his efforts in passing a bill that rolled back parts of the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act.

Dodd-Frank set up banking oversight in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster. 

Barr is a Republican who represents Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district. He says the measure made it harder for people in rural areas to get access to credit. 

“By reducing the number of community financial institutions, Dodd Frank regulations clogged the plumbing of our economy. Especially in rural and underserved communities,” 

Courier-Journal.com

  Tariffs took center stage at the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast on Thursday as about 1,500 farmers and politicos gathered to hear speeches and watch a prize country ham get auctioned off for $2.8 million.

The annual event is an opportunity for Kentucky politicians to weigh in on issues specific to agriculture and also raises money for charity (the winning bid for this year’s ham broke the previous record of $2 million, set in 2014).

Kentucky Wired Project

The head of Kentucky’s statewide broadband initiative says the initial contract for the project put an “excessive amount of risk” on the state. The state has had to compensate private partners for years of delays. 

Portions of the Kentucky Wired public-private partnership were supposed to go live in the summer of 2016, but now officials say that it’s been delayed until early 2020. 

Phillip Brown is the executive director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority. He says that an “aggressive schedule” is to blame for cost overruns in the project. 
 

Kentucky’s bourbon association is worried that a drawn-out trade war could slow down growth of the state’s signature distilling industry.  The group is inviting distilling companies from around the world to discuss tariffs at a “whiskey summit” next week. 

Kentucky bourbon is in the crosshairs of retaliatory tariffs from the European Union, Mexico and Canada after President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from those countries. 
 

Wikimedia Commons

Starting this week, Kentucky’s 6 percent sales tax applies to a new set of services like automotive repairs, pet grooming and dry cleaning. The state legislature voted to make the tax increases to put more money towards public education and cut the state’s income tax for people and corporations.

Business affected by the tax hike say they’ve been unfairly targeted. 

This week in state politics, federal education officials came to Kentucky to talk about ways to make schools safer and Gov. Matt Bevin said it all comes down to kids’ cell phone use. One of the Republican lawmakers who helped make changes to the state pension system says they’ll pass the bill again if it’s struck down by the courts. And the state’s new education commissioner talked about the potential costs of taking over Louisville’s school system. 

Kentucky.com

A judge has struck down changes made to Kentucky’s pension systems earlier this year. The ruling states that lawmakers violated the state constitution by rushing the bill to passage in a matter of hours. 

The challenge is the latest in a series of legal disputes between Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. 

David Osborne and other lawmakers are considering a sports betting bill for Kentucky.Credit LRC.Ky.GOVEdit | Remove

This week in Kentucky politics, Gov. Matt Bevin said he’s partnering with a former Democratic congressman to help people navigate the state’s new Medicaid rules. We found out that lobbyists set a new spending record at the state legislature as lawmakers made changes to the tax code. Plus, a state-funded aluminum mill broke ground in northeastern Kentucky and  Bevin asked for a judge to recuse himself from the lawsuit over the new pension bill. 

Liquor.com

Kentucky distillers, wineries and liquor retailers can now ship wine and spirits across state lines because of a new “bourbon without borders” law. 
The law allows visitors to Kentucky to ship up to 4.5 liters of spirits or 4 cases of wine back home—as long as their home state allows it. 
During a ceremonial bill signing on Friday, Gov. Matt Bevin said the new law will help build the state’s signature bourbon industry. 

Teachers in Kentucky flexed their newfound political clout in primary elections Tuesday after a series of massive protests at the state Capitol earlier this year.

High school math teacher Travis Brenda ousted one of the Kentucky legislature's top Republican leaders in a primary election. Brenda ran a campaign attacking state Rep. Jonathan Shell for his role in writing bills that weakened retirement benefits for state workers and overhauled Kentucky's tax code.

Courier-Journal.Com

State lawmakers from Louisville agree that Jefferson County’s public school system needs to improve, but disagree along party lines over whether the state should intervene in the management of the district.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey said that state education officials haven’t shown that a takeover would solve any of the district’s problems. 

“There’s nothing suggested by the interim commissioner about how he’s going to fix that by taking away the voices of the people of Jefferson County from the process involved in governing their schools.” 

Impremedia.net

Louisville’s practice of busing students around the city to try and create more diverse schools is under fire again as Kentucky education officials consider whether to take over management of Jefferson County Public Schools.

Republican leaders of the Kentucky legislature have unveiled a surprise overhaul of the state’s tax code on one of the last days of this year’s legislative session. 

The proposal is moving quickly toward final passage in the legislature and would be the first major change to the state’s tax code in nearly two decades. 

The bill establishes a flat income tax rate of 5 percent—currently Kentuckians are taxed at rates ranging from 2 percent to 6 percent, depending on income. 

Gov. Matt Bevin says it’s too early to say what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum even though the policy could have a big impact on Kentucky. 

The tariff could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries—the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives—and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect. 
 

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