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.

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.

Ryland Barton

A group of Republican lawmakers has filed a bill that would ban Kentucky businesses and schools from asking whether employees, students or customers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The measure would also expand the state’s civil rights code, banning businesses from denying services based on someone’s “immunization status.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge and one of the bill’s sponsors, said institutions shouldn’t be able to turn people away based on whether they have received the vaccine.

“Overall the intent here is to protect the privacy rights of citizens across the commonwealth. No aspect of this legislation is intended to in any way curtail the efforts at large to encourage people to receive a vaccine,” Maddox said.

J. Tyler Franklin

Republican lawmakers clashed with officials from Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration during the first meeting of the legislature’s Unemployment Insurance Reform Task Force Tuesday.

Like much of the nation, Kentucky struggled to keep up with a massive influx of applications for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, leading to a backlog of benefitsfraudulent claims and a data breach.

Republicans have blamed Beshear for the problems and this year the GOP-led legislature created the task force to look for solutions to the state’s unemployment system.

Sen. Mike Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and co-chair of the panel, said the issue is important, but lawmakers aren’t trying to blame anyone.

Creative Commons

Kentucky’s dispute with a Baptist adoption agency that turns away LGBTQ foster parents could be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Catholic organization that also rejects same-sex couples.

On Thursday, the high court sided with Catholic Social Services, a private agency that sued the City of Philadelphia for refusing to renew an adoption and foster care contract due to local anti-discrimination laws.

Kentucky has been locked in a similar battle with Sunrise Children’s Services, a Baptist organization that has so far refused to renew its contract because of a clause that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation

The fight has become a top priority for elected Republicans in Kentucky, who accuse Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of violating the organization’s religious freedoms.

LRC Public Information

Kentucky lawmakers will get data they need to draw new legislative and congressional maps later this summer after 2020 U.S. Census results were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a normal year, legislators would have gotten census data before this year’s legislative session and could have already drawn new district boundaries.

But the delayed release means lawmakers will be scrambling to redistrict the state ahead of next year’s elections for all Kentucky’s congressional seats and most legislative seats.

Legislators discussed the timing issue during a meeting of the Interim Committee on State Government Tuesday.

Bytemarks via Creative Commons

Even though Kentucky’s coronavirus cases have declined, businesses have reopened and restrictions have lifted, thousands of Kentuckians are still waiting on unemployment benefits they applied for during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vicki Lahman filed for unemployment in February 2020 after she was laid off from Louisville department store Shaheen’s shortly before the first case of coronavirus was reported in Kentucky.

Lahman is 75 years old, has COPD and is back to work at Shaheen’s now. But despite months of applications and calls to the state’s unemployment office, she only received one unemployment check in March of last year.

Her daughter, Heather Calamita, helped her throughout the process. She said they reached an unemployment official over the phone in May of last year who told her Lahman’s application had been put in “the wrong pile” and the situation would be quickly fixed.

Flickr/Creative Commons

The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over the legislature’s attempt to limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency powers, a day before the governor scheduled coronavirus restrictions to expire.

The Republican-led legislature passed several laws undermining the Democratic governor’s emergency powers earlier this year—including a measure limiting executive orders to 30 days unless renewed by lawmakers and requiring him to seek approval from the attorney general in order to suspend statutes during states of emergency.

Amy Cubbage, Beshear’s general counsel, argued that since the Kentucky constitution makes the governor the “chief executive,” the governor’s emergency powers are protected.

J. Tyler Franklin

A panel of Republican state legislators voted to end Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s mask mandate three days before it’s set to expire.

The largely symbolic move comes after more than a year of partisan fighting over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beshear has said he will end the mask mandate on Friday and scheduled his final regular coronavirus briefing to be on the same day.

Still, because last month Beshear updated the state’s regulation to no longer require vaccinated people to wear masks in most places, the policy needed to be reviewed by the legislature’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee.