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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The troubled Kentucky Wired broadband initiative received another public lashing on Thursday as state legislators weighed in on a scathing audit of the delayed and costly project.

Last month, State Auditor Mike Harmon released an examination that accused officials in former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration of botching the procurement of Kentucky Wired, placing too much financial risk on taxpayers and creating an unrealistic timeline for completion.

Ryland Barton

On a hot September day, a small crowd gathered around 6th district Congressman Andy Barr at the Fall Festival in Midway. He ticked off his record — the tax cuts bill passed last December, scaling back parts of the Dodd-Frank consumer protections and the Republican attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“The country is back,” Barr said. “Americans are better off now as a result of the policies we put in place. The country’s more prosperous, we’re stronger.”

James P., who didn’t want to be identified by his last name, strikes up an argument with Barr.


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Next month the Kentucky Board of Education will consider implementing new high school graduation requirements geared towards making sure students are ready to enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

The proposed requirements include mandating that students pass “foundation” reading and math exams before they can receive their diploma and meeting benchmark test scores or participating in vocational programs to prove they’re ready to find employment or continue academic pursuits.

Ryland Barton

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.

Alix Mattingly

An ethics panel issued an advisory opinion saying that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes can’t run for statewide office and serve as the chair of the bipartisan board that oversees elections.

The opinion comes as Grimes, a Democrat, is mulling a possible run for governor or attorney general next year and allegations from elections staff that she improperly accessed voter registration data and addresses of the state’s 15,000 poll workers.

Michelle Hanks

Mitch McConnell says that sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have been brought forward “in an irregular manner,” accusing Democrats of searching for a scandal to try and delay or derail the confirmation process.

First reported by the New York Times, a woman accused Kavanaugh and a male friend of sexual assault more than 30 years ago at a party when they were teenagers.

Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and was nominated by President Trump to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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The lawsuit against Kentucky’s new pension law will be heard by the Supreme Court of Kentucky on Thursday, pitting Kentucky’s two preeminent political rivals against each other and putting retirement benefits for thousands of teachers and state workers in the balance.

The pension changes were passed during this year’s legislative session amid massive protests and were blocked by a lower court, which ruled that lawmakers violated the state constitution by rushing the bill to passage during a matter of hours.

Ryland Barton

A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit that alleges President Trump encouraged his supporters to assault protesters at a Louisville campaign rally in 2016.

The three plaintiffs claimed they were pushed, shoved and punched by audience members after Trump repeatedly shouted “get ‘em out of here” during his speech at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that Trump’s words were protected by the First Amendment and that he didn’t specifically encourage violence because he also said “don’t hurt ‘em.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Governor Matt Bevin romanticized the harsh labor practice of indentured servitude during an event promoting Kentucky’s apprenticeship program to business leaders on Monday.

Bevin is the descendant of William Bevin, a Connecticut man who learned the craft of bell-making while working as an indentured servant in the early 19th century.

After the completion of his contract, William Bevin founded a bell-making company with his brother in 1832.

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A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is making another push to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky ahead of next year’s legislative session, arguing that doing so would provide patients with an alternative to addictive painkillers and expensive medications.

Louisville resident Cassie Everett said she has to take a variety of medications every day to treat her epilepsy, which has gotten worse since she was first diagnosed as a child.

“They make me sleepy, I have trouble breathing, talking,” Everett said. “I personally would like the option of having medical marijuana knowing [I could] be off of some of this medicine and the side effects.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says former University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino is blaming everyone but himself for recent scandals at the university that led to his firing last year.

In a book published this week, Pitino railed against Bevin for unilaterally replacing all the members of U of L’s Board of Trustees in 2016, suggesting that the move was done at the behest of University of Kentucky boosters and ultimately led to his ouster.

In an interview on The Greg Dunker Show on WKYX in Paducah, Bevin said the book sounded “sad.”

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Leaders of the Kentucky legislature have not renewed the contract of Legislative Research Commission Director David Byerman, who assumed control of the state agency in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal and low morale among employees.

In a statement, Byerman said the decision “surprised” him and that he had been told by Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne that they “want to take the office of director in a ‘different direction.’”

AndyBarrforCongress.com

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

Dodd-Frank set up consumer protections and banking oversight in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster that led to a global economic recession.

Barr, a Republican who represents Kentucky’s 6thCongressional district, said the measure made it harder for people in rural areas to get access to credit.

Alix Mattingly

The executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections is accusing Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of improperly accessing the state’s voter registration system, creating a hostile work environment and using her position to politicize the election system.

This is the second time in a year that Grimes has been accused of ethical mishaps by a staff member of the state’s elections agency.

Ryland Barton

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 Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles didn’t specifically mention tariffs, but hinted at them, saying he wanted to work to “increase market access.”

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