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

Republican lawmakers advanced another bill that seeks to limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency powers related to the coronavirus pandemic, late during this year’s legislative session. The measure would also try to thwart court rulings that have upheld the governor’s emergency powers.

House Bill 217 would alter the state’s emergency laws, removing all specific examples of disasters that the state’s emergency management program should respond to — ranging from ice storms to nuclear attacks.

Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge and the bill’s sponsor,  said removing that language would undercut last year’s Kentucky Supreme Court ruling against a challenge to Beshear’s emergency powers.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky legislature is moving forward with a Republican-sponsored proposal to limit no-knock search warrants and not a Democratic bill favored by protesters.

The House Judiciary Committee heard both measures during a meeting on Wednesday, but designated House Bill 21, also known as Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, as “for discussion only,” preventing it from receiving a vote.

Instead, the committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 4 sponsored by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, which would limit no-knock searches to situations that involve allegedly violent activity.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott is the primary sponsor of Breonna’s Law. She said Stivers’ measure doesn’t go far enough, but they are working together on the issue.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s state and local governments will get about $4 billion from the federal coronavirus relief bill making its way through Congress, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration. That’s in addition to the $5 billion individuals in Kentucky stand to get from stimulus checks, an extension of unemployment benefits and other programs.

The figures come as lawmakers are trying to put the finishing touches on a one-year state budget after a year of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

John Hicks, Kentucky’s state budget director, said the administration is still waiting for the relief package to pass and for formal instructions from the federal government.

J. Tyler Franklin

Police reform wasn’t on the radar of most Kentucky lawmakers when Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor last March.

But after months of protests calling for change, politicians started to pay attention.

Demonstrations led to some new policies—the city of Louisville passed a ban on no-knock warrants and Lexington temporarily suspended them.

And at the statewide level, police reforms are moving forward through the state legislature, but they’re not everything the protesters hoped for.

Democratic Rep. Attica Scott’s bill to ban no-knock warrants, Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, will get its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this week.

 

  

Ryland Barton

Kentucky lawmakers resumed budget talks on Monday after a nearly two-month break.

Legislators still have little to show for the one-year state spending plan even though they only have about a week before the deadline to send it to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.

Part of the holdup is uncertainty over how much aid Kentucky will receive from the federal government as part of the coronavirus relief package making its way through Congress.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said he’s still not sure how much money the state will get.

Ryland Barton

A judge has temporarily blocked parts of three bills that would limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Wednesday that the legislation would “undermine, or even cripple, the effectiveness of public health measures” during the pandemic, though the lawsuit against the measures will continue to play out.

“The Court expects the Governor to continue to adjust the requirements set forth in Executive Orders and Emergency Regulations to relax those requirements as conditions warrant and the public health concerns abate,” Shepherd wrote.

“But the Court believes those decisions should be made based on medical and scientific evidence, not on arbitrary deadlines imposed by statutes irrespective of the spread of the virus.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill Monday banning the death penalty for people with some severe mental illnesses.

House Bill 148 would ban the death penalty if, at the time of the offense, a defendant has a documented history of one of five mental illnesses.

Rep. Chad McCoy, a Republican from Bardstown and sponsor of the bill, said those convicted of capital offenses would still be punished, but under the bill, the death penalty wouldn’t be available for some.

“This is not an insanity defense, not taking away that. They will go to jail for life without the possibility of parole. We’re just removing the death penalty for this small segment,” McCoy said.

ONA News Agency/Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky courthouses have been closed to in-person traffic for much of the pandemic, but the state Supreme Court has issued an order slowly easing coronavirus restrictions and allowing more face-to-face hearings.

Most court proceedings will continue to take place remotely until May 1, though grand juries will be allowed to meet starting April 1.

The reopening plan requires everyone entering the courthouse to wear masks.

In a statement, the Administrative Office of the Courts said the judicial branch was implementing the changes “as Kentucky begins to see its COVID-19 cases decline and its rate of vaccinations increase.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The state House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would bar people, news outlets and other entities outside the commonwealth from making open records requests for Kentucky records.

House Bill 312 also expands the legislature’s exemptions from the open records act and requires all requests to be submitted on a standardized form created by the attorney general’s office.

Rep. Jason Petrie, a Republican from Elkton, said the proposal would streamline records requests, which he called a “burdensome churn of data.”

“We placed a burden many years ago upon ourselves, the government — and the taxpayers have supported — to supply information, but this simply tries to rein in what has tilted too far on the pendulum,” Petrie said.

Ryland Barton

Republican lawmakers unveiled a bill Thursday that would make several changes to Kentucky’s elections, including instituting three days of no-excuse early voting and giving absentee voters a chance to fix their ballots if they sign them incorrectly.

The bill also includes election security measures like a ban on so-called “ballot harvesting,” where people collect and submit ballots for absentee voters. It would also make it easier for the secretary of state to cut people who have moved out of state from Kentucky’s voter rolls.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams said he believes the bill will expand voting access while boosting election integrity.

J. Tyler Franklin

Update: 6:24 p.m.

The Kentucky Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 4, creating new limits on no-knock search warrants after a nearly two-hour discussion Tuesday evening.

During the nearly two-hour debate, lawmakers praised the bipartisan effort, but Louisville Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal said passing the bill wasn’t enough

“The problem we face goes deeper than no-knocks,” Neal said.

“We must have trust between the police and our communities. We have to go beyond what we’re doing here, which I support. We have the power, ability, intelligence and the moral standing to deal with this in a rational way,” Neal said.

Kate Howard

A panel of lawmakers voted to dismiss petitions to impeach Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Tuesday, though the final decision lies with the full Kentucky House of Representatives.

The decision caps off nearly two months of closed-door meetings of the Kentucky House Impeachment Committee.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and chair of the committee, announced they voted to dismiss the petitions late Tuesday night.

“The committee has found that none of the allegations made against the governor nor the attorney general rise to the level of impeachable offenses,” Nemes said.

LRC Public Information

The Republican president of the Kentucky Senate filed a bill that would restrict “no-knock” search warrants, the type of warrant used in the Louisville police raid that killed Breonna Taylor last year.

Senate Bill 4 would still allow no-knock warrants to be issued in cases where someone allegedly committed a violent crime, or if giving prior notice would endanger someone’s life or result in the loss of evidence related to a violent crime.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said the Breonna Taylor raid wouldn’t have happened under his proposal.

“You’re not going to have a situation that occurred here that you’re going to create a no-knock search warrant to search for papers, stolen items, drugs, anything like that,” Stivers said.

Ryland Barton

A bill banning governors from reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education passed out of a legislative committee on Tuesday morning.

House Bill 178 comes more than a year after Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear replaced the entire board of education as one of his first acts in office.

The measure would also require the racial, political party and gender makeup of the board to be proportional to the state’s representation.

Rep. Steve Sheldon, a Republican from Bowling Green, said the bill would prevent Kentucky Board of Education members from being treated like “political pawns.”

Ryland Barton

A Kentucky judge urged Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and GOP leaders of the legislature to come to a compromise in the power struggle over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beshear sued to block three new laws that passed out of the Republican-led legislature earlier this month, arguing they would hamstring his ability to issue executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

During a virtual hearing on Thursday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd said both parties have valid concerns that need to be resolved for the sake of Kentucky citizens.

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