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.

J. Tyler Franklin

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.


Ryland Barton

Gov. Matt Bevin says in order to put an end to school shootings, parents need to stop over-medicating their children and steer them away from cell phones and violent video games.

The governor’s comments came during a listening session hosted by the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was created by President Trump earlier this year.

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After last week’s court decision that struck down Kentucky’s new pension law, a Republican state representative says he’s confident legislators will pass a new version of the measure if the decision is upheld.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last week that the pension law is unconstitutional because lawmakers passed it too quickly. Gov. Matt Bevin — one of the defendants in the court battle — has indicated he will appeal the decision.

Fons Cervera

Federal education officials will be in Lexington on Tuesday to hear recommendations about how to make schools safer.

The listening session will be the second meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was created by President Trump after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 14 people dead.

The Parkland shooting took place just weeks after the January shooting at Marshall County High School that killed two.

Public Domain

This week in Kentucky politics, a judge struck down Kentucky’s new pension law, saying legislators broke the law by rushing the bill to passage. Kentucky’s health secretary says the state will have to cut benefits if a federal court blocks Gov. Matt Bevin’s changes to the Medicaid system. And Democrats no longer make up a majority of registered voters in the state. 


J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says the judge who struck down Kentucky’s pension law is “not a very competent attorney,” predicting that the ruling will be overturned because the legislation “doesn’t do much.”

Franklin County Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd ruled on Wednesday that the law is unconstitutional because state lawmakers rushed the bill to passage and didn’t have enough votes to send it to the governor’s desk.

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Kentucky’s top health official says the state will cut benefits to Medicaid recipients if a federal court strikes down changes to the program set to roll out on July 1.

Gov. Matt Bevin got permission from the Trump administration to require “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients to pay monthly premiums and prove that they are working, volunteering, a full-time student or trying to find work in order to keep their health coverage.

Public Domain

A judge has struck down changes made to Kentucky’s pension systems earlier this year, ruling 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.

On Wednesday Beshear called the ruling a “win for open, honest government.”

J. Tyler Franklin

For the first time since the Civil War, a majority of Kentucky voters don’t identify as Democrats as Republicans continue to make gains in voter registrations in the state.

As of June 15, Democrats make up 49.9 percent of registered voters in Kentucky while Republicans make up 41 percent and the rest identify either with a third party or as independents.

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A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers is writing a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that states should be allowed to legalize sports betting, striking down a nearly 30-year ban.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said the bill would generate between $6.5 million and $26 million for the state every year through licensing and taxes.

Ryland Barton

This week in Kentucky politics, Kentucky State Troopers shut protesters out of the state Capitol, allowing only two people to enter the building at a time. Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing Walgreens, saying the company helped fuel the opioid epidemic in the state. And a high-powered lobbyist was in federal court as prosecutors try to prove he bribed a former state official to help a client get state contracts.


Stephen George

Catherine Milliner’s grandson Tony died when he was four years old. Her daughter’s boyfriend was charged with murdering the toddler. And as a three-year trial unfolded, Milliner wanted to keep tabs on every step of the case, including the whereabouts of the accused.

“I got online and found out where Johnny was, the gentleman who murdered my grandson, just by accident,” Milliner said.

Milliner said VINE, Kentucky’s court notification system, failed to notify her of key changes in the case, like the defendant’s transfers between prisons.


Ryland Barton

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing Walgreens, saying the company helped fuel the opioid epidemic by failing to monitor large shipments of pain pills throughout the state.

Beshear said Walgreens failed to report “suspiciously large orders” it received for prescription pain pills.

“Walgreens is in a position to not only know how many pills are coming into Kentucky overall, but also how many pills are coming out of that one retail store in a county with a population that should never support that amount,” Beshear said during a news conference on Thursday.

Creative Commons

State lawmakers on Monday heard recommendations about how to how to make Kentucky schools safer in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marshall County High School earlier this year and similar tragedies across the country.

A group of school safety experts shied away from controversial policies like arming teachers or new gun regulations, instead advising that schools improve security, hire more school resource officers and find new ways to detect and prevent possible shootings.

Ryland Barton

About 100 protesters from an anti-poverty group crowded the entryway to the Kentucky Capitol Monday after state officials restricted the group’s access to the building.

Kentucky State Police say they will only allow two protesters at a time from the Poor People’s Campaign to enter the Capitol building following a series of escalating protests in recent weeks.

Tayna Fogle, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, called the restrictions “sad and hurtful.”

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