Ryland Barton

State Capitol Bureau Reporter

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has 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.

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Republican leaders of the state House of Representatives have asked a top official from former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration to answer questions about Kentucky Wired, a statewide broadband project that has racked up more than $180 million in costs associated with delays.

The Kentucky Wired project is supposed to provide high speed internet to all of Kentucky’s 120 counties with a 3,200 mile-long network of fiber optic cable.

Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Rand Paul was in Russia on Monday and invited Russian officials to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Paul met for an hour with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian Federal Council Committee on Foreign Affairs.

According to a video posted by Russian state media outlet RT, Paul said that the goal of his trip was to promote greater dialogue between the countries.

“I am one who believes in more engagement, that we need to have more cultural exchange, more exchange between our legislative bodies, more open lines of communication,” Paul said.

Ryland Barton

Teachers got a lot of love from speakers during the Fancy Farm political speaking event.

U.S. Congressman James Comer made a point to thank teachers who showed up to Fancy Farm, saying that they “deserve the respect of our highest elected officials.”

The comment is a dig at Gov. Bevin, who has made several inflammatory statements about teachers, including a claim that teachers left their students vulnerable to sexual assault and drug abuse by protesting in Frankfort earlier this year.

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As Kentucky’s drug overdose and incarceration rates continue to surge, some are renewing the call for the state to reform its criminal justice system and increase opportunities for drug treatment.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley said the number of people in Kentucky’s prison system surpassed 25,000 for the first time this year.

“We’re constantly trying to keep the tourniquet applied because we’ve let it get this bad as a state,” Tilley said at a legislative hearing at Lake Barkley State Resort. “That’s the problem, there’s so much deferred maintenance, so much neglect of facilities throughout the state.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The annual Fancy Farm political speaking event takes place this weekend, signaling the unofficial kickoff of the fall election season in Kentucky.

The festival is a fundraiser for St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in the Graves County town of Fancy Farm in far-western Kentucky.

For more than a century the event has attracted Kentucky politicians trying to sway voters and in recent decades has evolved into a raucous affair where speakers insult and tease opponents while the crowd heckles and chants.

Kyeland Jackson

In another shakeup of Kentucky’s education leadership, the state board of education has elected charter schools advocate Hal Heiner to be its chairman.

Heiner was appointed to the board by Gov. Matt Bevin in April.

“For me, this year marks 22 nearly continuous years of education board service,” Heiner said Thursday morning. “From a P-12 board to a board serving children with learning differences to a post-secondary board, it’s been a labor of love.”

Heiner is an engineer and businessman and has led several organizations that push for opening charter schools in Kentucky and reforming the state’s education system.

ky.gov

Next week, Kentucky’s Supreme Court will hear high-profile legal challenges dealing with the constitutionality of new laws, whether jailers should be held liable when an inmate dies of a drug overdose, and who appears on a ballot after a candidate dies.

Medical Review Panels

The state’s high court will weigh in on the legality of Kentucky’s medical review panel law, which passed during last year’s General Assembly. It requires medical malpractice lawsuits to be approved by a three-person panel before the cases can be heard by a court.

J. Tyler Franklin

Senator Rand Paul is throwing his support behind President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, after initially saying he wasn’t sure he would vote to confirm the nominee.

With a slim Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, a no-vote from Paul could have derailed the confirmation of Kavanaugh, who Trump has nominated to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Last week Paul said he was “very worried” about Kavanaugh’s record ruling in favor of broad government power to collect data about U.S. citizens without a warrant.

J. Tyler Franklin

Amid a shortage of skilled workers, Gov. Matt Bevin says that the state and country need to focus on training young people to fill jobs in high-demand industries like manufacturing, health care and transportation.

“Everything that is being done with taxpayer money in this state should be focused on delivering what the purpose of an education is,” Bevin said. “It’s not to have a piece of paper. Because a piece of paper with no skill behind it is of no value.”

Bevin made the comments after a roundtable discussion in Shelbyville Thursday with the head of the federal Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

U.S. Courts

A federal appeals court heard arguments on Wednesday over Kentucky’s ultrasound abortion requirement, which was blocked by a lower court last fall.

The law requires doctors to show and describe images of the fetal ultrasound to a patient before conducting an abortion, as well as play audio of the fetal heartbeat.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone abortion facility, argues that it violates free speech rights by requiring doctors to describe the ultrasound even if patients demand that they not.

Ryland Barton

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court will hear arguments over a Kentucky law requiring doctors to show and describe a fetal ultrasound to patients before conducting an abortion.

The law also requires doctors to play audio of the fetal heartbeat, even if patients object.

The measure was struck down by a lower court last fall, citing concerns over the psychological harm it could cause. But Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Rand Paul could represent the deciding vote on whether to confirm President Trump’s recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.

Kentucky’s junior Republican senator has said he’s undecided about whether to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, citing concerns with the federal appeals court judge’s rulings on privacy issues.

During a forum in Louisville last week, Paul said he was “very worried” about Kavanaugh’s decisions in favor of broad government power to collect data about citizens without a warrant.

J. Tyler Franklin

This week in Kentucky politics, Rand Paul was one of the few politicians to defend Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration restored vision and dental benefits to almost 400,000 people on Medicaid after taking them away earlier this month. And Kentucky’s bourbon industry ramped up its warnings about how a trade war would impact the state’s signature industry. 


Kevin Willis

The head of Kentucky’s bourbon association says he’s worried that a drawn-out trade war could slow down growth of the state’s signature distilling industry.

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

Kentucky Distillers Association President Eric Gregory said distillers are worried that if the dispute escalates, it’ll offset some of the industry’s massive growth over the past decade.

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Lora Zibman

More than 2,000 Kentuckians will have to pay more to receive Medicaid benefits that help them avoid nursing homes. The news comes after state officials said they’ve been charging the incorrect amount for over half a decade.

The change is scheduled to take effect on August 1 and applies to people with disabilities who receive at-home and community-based Medicaid services in Kentucky and make more than $750 per month.

Kentucky Health Cabinet officials say that for more than 5 years, the state hasn’t been collecting the correct amount for the “patient liability”— the amount beneficiaries have to pay every month.

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