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.

Bytemarks via Creative Commons

Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration might partner with the federal government to build a new unemployment insurance system.

Like much of the nation, Kentucky struggled to keep up with a surge of applications for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Beshear administration has blamed the problems on understaffing, antiquated software and security issues that have led to delays in overhauling the system.

During a legislative hearing on Tuesday, Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link said the federal government is forming a consortium of five or six states to share a “core unemployment system” and Kentucky is considering joining.

But he said the state may decide to overhaul the system on its own.

Stephanie Wolf

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has endorsed Charles Booker’s bid to unseat incumbent Republican Rand Paul in Kentucky’s senate race next year.

Warren is a second-term senator from Massachusetts and former Democratic presidential candidate who’s weighed in on Kentucky elections before.

She endorsed Booker in last year’s senate race after initially throwing her support behind retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath. She also endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014.

In a statement, Warren said Booker has the “right vision and heart to reclaim Kentucky’s Senate seat for the people.”

Breya Jones

The front lawn of the Capitol building in Frankfort served as the backdrop for the “Worldwide Freedom Rally” on Saturday, where attendees railed against the unlikely possibility of mandated vaccines and the governor’s COVID-19 response.

The rally was held by America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing medical professionals organization. According to the organization, today’s rally was supposed to take place at several state capitols across the nation.  

The event’s speakers addressed critical race theory, concerns about communism in the US and the Kentucky government’s response to COVID-19. 

There was general fear about government-sponsored vaccine mandates, particularly requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for students attending public school, despite there being no discussion about that currently.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky is creating an electronic search warrant system that allows police to request and judges to approve or deny warrants online.

The e-warrant system is being developed by research database company LexisNexis and comes amid scrutiny of search warrant processes in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing.

Members of Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s Search Warrant Task Force discussed the project on Thursday.

Troy Belcher, the lead developer of the e-warrant system with LexisNexis, said it will create more oversight of the search warrant process.

“Everybody looks at the history when it comes to the warrants. They want to see who created it, they wanted to see who sent it, who even looked at it. We’ll definitely have that information in there,” Belcher said.

Kate Howard

Kentucky will get more than $460 million as part of a multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The settlement is the result of several lawsuits Kentucky has filed against pharmaceutical companies. Proceeds will be put toward addiction treatment and prevention and will be distributed to the state over the coming years.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the windfall on Wednesday, saying the companies created and fueled the opioid epidemic.

“There is hardly a family anywhere that has been immune to the scourge of opioids,” Cameron said during a news conference. “We’ve lost thousands of our fellow Kentuckians and seen families and children torn apart by the grips of addiction.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Lawmakers say they’ll investigate racial disparities and come up with solutions in a new Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity that met for the first time on Tuesday.

The commission, made up of legislators and citizens, was created earlier this year in response to calls for racial justice reforms and months of protests across the state and nation.

But critics say the commission is another powerless task force that exemplifies the legislature’s inaction addressing racism.

Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg and co-chair of the panel, said arguments over racial justice protests last summer showed the need for structured conversations about race.

J. Tyler Franklin

Local superintendents in Kentucky are calling for more state funding for programs like special education, English language learning and at-risk students.

The state pays for the programs by adding to districts’ funding based on how many students they have, but education advocates say persistent inflation has weakened assistance.

During a legislative meeting on Monday, Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively said the state’s education funding mechanism hasn’t adapted.

“In order to have an excellent and equitable education, we have to have an adequate and equitable funding system for public schools,” Lively said.

Kentucky pays for its schools through a combination of state and local funding. School districts raise money through local property taxes.

Ryland Barton

Conservative consultant and writer Kelley Paul stumped for her husband, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, at an event at a Louisville country club on Thursday.

Speaking to the Women’s Republican Club of Louisville, Kelley Paul echoed her husband’s critiques of pandemic lockdown orders, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and news outlets’ coverage of the neighbor who attacked the junior senator in 2017, breaking several ribs.

Kelley Paul said over the last year, reporters unfairly covered Rand Paul’s questioning of Fauci and Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate.

Breya Jones

Former Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker launched his 2022 campaign for U.S. Senate earlier this month. He’s trying to build off his 2020 Senate bid, which was cut short after he narrowly lost to retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath in the primary election.

Booker surged to prominence during racial justice protests last year and created an advocacy organization called “Hood to the Holler,” named after his campaign slogan and attempt to build an urban-rural coalition in the state.

If he wins the Democratic nomination next year, he would likely face Republican incumbent Sen. Rand Paul, who was first elected in 2010 and is running again.

 

  

Kyeland Jackson

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams urged federal lawmakers not to “micromanage” state elections. During a congressional hearing on Monday, he said local officials know what’s best for their constituents.

Adams, a Republican, spoke by video to the U.S. House Committee on House Administration.

The meeting came as some GOP-led state legislatures are considering bills criticized by voting rights advocates and Democrats in Congress are pushing for voting rights bills Republicans say usurp local election control.

Adams said he doesn’t agree with every election bill proposed by Republican legislators, but that local officials are better equipped to handle the issue.

Kyeland Jackson

Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon has announced a bid for governor in 2023, making him the first Republican to officially launch a challenge to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Harmon is in his second term as state auditor, the office in charge of reviewing the state’s accounting and financial performance. Before that, he served in the state House of Representatives for 13 years.

Harmon said he’s joining the race because he opposes Beshear’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, citing the governor’s restrictions on gatherings and a backlog of unemployment claims.

“I felt like it was important for people to see somebody who would defend their rights—both their liberties and ability to have livelihoods,” Harmon said.

Lisa Gillespie

Former state Rep. Charles Booker is running for U.S. Senate with hopes of defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who has held the seat since his election in 2010.

Booker, a Democrat, made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter Thursday morning, but an in-person rollout is scheduled for 12pm today at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.

With nearly a year and a half until the election, no other prominent Democrats have filed to run for the seat so far.

Booker ran for Senate last year and sprinted to prominence amid racial justice protests ahead of the delayed June primary election. But he was narrowly defeated by retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who went on to lose to incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell in a landslide in the general election.

Ryland Barton

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he’s not concerned by a potential challenge from former state Rep. Charles Booker during his race for reelection next year.

Booker, a Democrat, has hinted he will run and is holding a “special announcement” in Louisville on Thursday, possibly to announce his candidacy. He formed an exploratory committee earlier this year to raise money for the potential run.

Paul, a Republican who’s been in the Senate since 2011, has been touring the state this week. During a stop in Shelbyville, Paul said he doesn’t think Kentucky voters will support Booker’s progressive stances.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be very popular to want to defund the police. I don’t think most Kentuckians think that somehow infrastructure is reparations for slavery, or somehow Kentuckians think they need to pay reparations for slavery, I just don’t think that’s going to be very popular,” Paul said.

J. Tyler Franklin

  Two Kentucky lawmakers say they will file a bill allowing student athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL) during next year’s legislative session.

The move comes amid increased pressure for elected officials and the NCAA to allow players to profit from their contributions to the multi-billion-dollar college athletics industry.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order last week allowing student athletes to do just that starting July 1—meaning players can profit off endorsements, sponsorships, autographs, appearances and other ventures.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, and Sen. Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, want to go beyond the governor’s order and pass the policy into law.

Joseph Lord

Gov. Andy Beshear has signed an executive order allowing student-athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.

The move will allow players to profit off endorsements, sponsorships, appearances and other ventures. It comes amid increased pressure on lawmakers across the country and the NCAA to allow student-athletes to receive fair compensation.

Beshear said he arrived at the decision after talking to the state’s university and political leaders.

“This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student-athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states. For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s,” Beshear said.

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