Lisa Autry

The pandemic has upended our lives in many ways, and perhaps no one knows that better than parents of school age children.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is bearing down hard on Kentucky, pushing the state past one million cases of COVID-19. With the most contagious variant yet and a record number of new cases, schools are stressed by high absenteeism among both students and staff.

Many schools have returned to in-person learning this week, but parents fear it will be short-lived.

"I don't know a parent in Warren County right now that's not got somebody sick," said Jenny Lopez during an interview with WKU Public Radio Public.

You might say Lopez has been praying a mother’s prayer.

“Help these kids stay in school, get the learning done, and get this year over," sighed Lopez, while sitting at the kitchen table of her home in southern Warren County.

Katie Myers | Ohio Valley ReSource

In late December, West Virginia union members and supporters gathered in the small town of Elkview, about 20 minutes outside of Charleston. Dozens of linemen, coal miners, educators, plumbers and others lined up by the side of the road in front of Tudor’s Biscuit World to show their support for the local fast food shop’s unionization effort.

Tudor’s has a hold on the West Virginia imagination — it’s the state’s signature breakfast chain, where hungry travelers can pick from about twenty varieties of creatively-named, biscuit-based breakfast sandwiches. Workers at the Elkview location of the fast food chain have been in a months-long unionization effort, born after years of grievances about alleged verbal abuse, low pay and long hours.

During the rally, one of the organizers, Cynthia Nicholson, shouted along with the crowd chanting “Get up! Get down! Elkview is a union town!” Cynthia helped spearhead the union effort because, she said, she had less to lose. She makes ends meet with a union pension from her recently deceased husband, and had taken the job alongside her son, Daniel, as a way to introduce some structure into her life.

Tennessee House Select Committee Redistricting

Tennessee lawmakers are expected to take final votes on newly drawn electoral districts this week and voting rights advocates are already eyeing legal challenges. They believe the proposed maps could be drawn better.

The national voting rights act prohibits racial discrimination in relation to voting and elections. League of Women Voters of Tennessee President Debbie Gould says the maps being finalized may do just that and could create a legal pathway to overturn them. 

“We are extremely concerned that the maps that were drawn reflect not just partisan gerrymandering but racial gerrymandering, which is in direct violation of the NVRA,” Gould said.

J. Tyler Franklin

bill that would make it a crime to insult police and create additional protest-related offenses has resurfaced in the Kentucky legislature. A similar measure was filed last year but failed to pass out of the General Assembly.

This year’s legislation aims to enhance penalties for rioting and offenses committed during the course of a demonstration. People charged with any violations at, near or with knowledge of a riot would be held in jail for a minimum of 48 hours. Resisting arrest, normally a class A misdemeanor, would become a class D felony. People sentenced for their offenses would not be eligible for early parole. 

State law defines a riot as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.”

John Hardin

A museum dedicated to telling the history of African-Americans in Bowling Green is trying to recover from a one-two punch of deadly storms, followed by a fire.

The African American Museum in Bowling Green sits just outside the campus of Western Kentucky University. It was one of the many structures that suffered damaged during the tornado that ripped through the community on December 10-11. Then, on Dec. 22, an electrical fire broke out in the museum, causing further damage.

Board member and WKU Professor Emeritus of History John Hardin said the museum is now boarded up, and volunteers continue the process of doing inventory work and salvaging items that were damaged in the storm and fire.

“Many of those documents, some of them were 60, 70, 80, almost 100 years old,” Hardin said. “And so you had to be a little careful with the old documents, the old artifacts.”

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Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed Republican-drawn redistricting plans for the Kentucky House of Representatives and the state’s six congressional districts, saying the maps have illegally been drawn to benefit GOP political candidates.

The rejection will likely be temporary — lawmakers can easily override Beshear’s vetoes with a majority vote in each legislative chamber, which are both dominated by Republicans.

In his veto messages, Beshear said both maps were “unconstitutional political gerrymanders” and criticized Republican leaders for cobbling together the plans behind closed doors with no public input.

House Bill 2 would redraw the boundaries for Kentucky’s 100 state House districts, pitting two pairs of Democratic incumbents in Louisville against each other and two pairs of Republicans from rural parts of the state.

Thinkstock

Community bail funds would be considered illegal under a bill being considered in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Charitable bail organizations take donations and use them as part of a revolving fund to bail people out while they’re awaiting trial. A bill being sponsored by Rep. John Blanton would make the work these organizations do illegal. The Republican from Magoffin County said he wants to see more accountability for community bail fund organizations. 

“All of a sudden it’s being used basically as a get out of jail free card from someone who has no interest in anything other than releasing people who have been criminally charged with a crime," Blanton said in an interview with WKU Public Radio.

  

Abbey Oldham

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is drawing criticism for comments he made shortly before the GOP blocked a federal elections bill, when he said that “African American” voters cast ballots at similar rates to “Americans.”

He made the remark at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday when asked about concerns that people of color have about voting rights. The comment implied that Black voters are somehow not American and underscored the concerns of voting rights advocates that Republicans are seeking to disenfranchise Black voters.

McConnell's supporters call it an unfair attack, saying he simply left out a word and meant to say Black people vote at similar rates to “all” Americans.

Blaise Gainey | WPLN News

The newly drawn Tennessee district maps have flown through legislative committees on party-line votes. The Republican-led state Senate could pass the maps Thursday.

Voting rights advocates have asked the General Assembly to consider keeping communities whole. However, Republicans proposed a congressional map that splits historically democratic Davidson and Shelby counties, among other changes.  

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, chairs the redistricting committee. 

“I think there’s benefit there in terms of having that representation, and that consistent representation, of urban and some rural. Some have more rural than others but it just makes sense,” said Johnson.

Stu Johnson / Kentucky Public Radio

The Capitol rotunda was the site of a celebration of one of Kentucky’s signature industries Wednesday afternoon. It included references to what’s been an allusive policy goal for decades.

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Ashli Watts said Kentuckians usually agree on one thing regardless of political ideology. “If anything can bring us together in this kind of political climate, it’s always going to be bourbon,” said Watts.

The ceremony featured comments from democratic Governor Andy Beshear and GOP legislative leaders Robert Stivers and David Osborne.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association reports the bourbon industry carries an annual $9 billion impact and generates more than 22,000 jobs and a $1.2 billion payroll. Association President Eric Gregory said the next three years will see three billion dollars in capital investment.

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Bryan Lemon

LRS Live Replay: Kyshona & Dax Evans

February's Lost River Sessions LIVE show at the Captiol Arts Center in Bowling Green was a special one. Fans saw local singer and songwriter Dax Evans take the stage, performing some heartfelt original songs. Meanwhile, Nashville artist, and former music therapist Kyshona, blessed the venue on the eve of her album release with new music.

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