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.

KentuckyOneHealth

  The University of Louisville has announced plans to purchase the KentuckyOne hospital system with the assistance of a $50 million loan from the state’s Economic Development Cabinet.

The deal is contingent upon state lawmakers authorizing it during next year’s legislative session and would amount to the largest loan administered by the cabinet, according to a review of records.

  Protesters gathered outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in Louisville Tuesday evening to urge him to take up legislation to combat gun violence.

The rally came in the wake of deadly shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend.

Hollan Holm is a survivor of the deadly 1997 Heath High School shooting in Paducah, when a 14 year-old open fire on a group of praying students, killing three.

At the rally, Holm said that he’s tired of politicians only offering “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings.

This week in Kentucky politics, Gov. Matt Bevin’s special legislative session on pensions is finally taking place and Democrats think he’s tied the legislature’s hands. Bevin and Democratic rival Andy Beshear clashed during a debate at the Kentucky Farm Bureau. And Kentucky lawmakers responded to President Trump’s inflammatory tweets. Jean West from member station WFPL talked to Ryland Barton for this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled. 

State lawmakers return to Frankfort on Friday for a special legislative session to deal with surging pension costs currently being experienced by regional universities and “quasi” state agencies like local health departments.

Gov. Matt Bevin issued the official proclamation for the session on Thursday afternoon, summoning lawmakers to Frankfort and laying out what he hopes will pass into law.

The proclamation is narrowly tailored so that lawmakers will likely only be able to consider a proposal that Bevin has hammered out with Republican leaders of the legislature.

J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL

  Gov. Matt Bevin is again the most unpopular governor in America and is getting less popular according to a new poll.

Bevin was first elected in 2015 and is seeking reelection this year, trying to become the first Republican governor in state history to serve two terms.

According to the new poll by Morning Consult, Bevin has a 56 percent disapproval rating and 32 percent approval rating.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin and leaders of Kentucky’s legislature are going back and forth over who’s in charge of rallying support for a new pension bill.

Bevin vetoed an earlier version of the legislation, which seeks to provide relief to regional universities and “quasi” state agencies like health departments that are facing a massive increase in pension costs starting next month.

WFPL

This week in Kentucky politics, a very interesting primary election took place. We learned that Gov. Matt Bevin will be facing off against Attorney General Andy Beshear in this year’s race for governor. But the results of the election show that both candidates have some work to do to unite their parties behind them. Jean West from member station WFPL talked to Ryland Barton for this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled. 
 

J. Tyler Franklin / WFPL

Adam Edelen is one of four Democrats running for governor this year. He’s a businessman from Lexington and previously served as state auditor, before he lost reelection in 2015. And Edelen is doing something most Democrats running for statewide office in Kentucky have avoided…running as a progressive. Capitol reporter Ryland Barton has this profile.

Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to call a special legislative session on pensions before July 1st, but timing could complicate whether a session even takes place. However, universities and agencies affected by the issue want clarity sooner than that.

The legislature passed a bill this year that would have allowed regional universities and other agencies to avoid massive increases in the amount they have to contribute to the pension systems. But Gov. Bevin vetoed it, promising to call lawmakers back to Frankfort to tackle the issue again. 

Kentucky Democratic Party

With about a month to go before Kentucky’s primary elections, all three major Democratic candidates for governor appeared together on stage for the first time on Thursday.

During a forum held by Louisville’s Rotary Club, candidates differed only slightly in their stances on a wide range of issues including preserving Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion, shoring up public education and allowing casino gambling to generate revenue for the state’s ailing pension systems.

But the candidates are still trying to set themselves apart.

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. 

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