Ryland Barton

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He's 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.

Republican leaders of the Kentucky legislature have unveiled a surprise overhaul of the state’s tax code on one of the last days of this year’s legislative session. 

The proposal is moving quickly toward final passage in the legislature and would be the first major change to the state’s tax code in nearly two decades. 

The bill establishes a flat income tax rate of 5 percent—currently Kentuckians are taxed at rates ranging from 2 percent to 6 percent, depending on income. 

Gov. Matt Bevin says it’s too early to say what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum even though the policy could have a big impact on Kentucky. 

The tariff could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries—the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives—and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect. 
 

WLKY.com

Vice President Mike Pence was in Versailles today to promote the Republican tax cut that passed out of Congress late last year. 

He also voiced support for President Donald Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum. 

“Whether it be renegotiating NAFTA or protecting our steel and aluminum industries, president Trump will always put American workers, American farmers and American companies first.” 
 

WKU.EDU

A bill raising the cap on how much package beer can be bought from Kentucky microbreweries is nearing final passage from the state legislature. Capitol reporter Ryland Barton has more.               

The bill would allow customers to take home up to 31 gallons of beer from microbreweries— that’s the equivalent of two kegs. Currently the limit is two dozen 12-ounce beers, or, a little over two gallons. 
Adam Watson, co-owner of Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville, says the measure would help boost sales out of his brewery and beyond. 
 

State Capitols Online

This week at the state legislature, a new bill overhauling the public pension system was finally filed and it’s a lot different from the proposal made by Gov. Matt Bevin last fall. But, it still reduces benefits to many current and most future state employees while promising massive infusions of cash into the pension systems. 
Bevin’s plan to overhaul the pension system would have moved most future and some current state employees onto 401k-style retirement plans. 

The Kentucky House Natural Resources Committee has advanced a controversial bill that would scale back Kentucky’s solar net metering program, an effort to compensate households with solar panels for putting energy back on the power grid. 

State law requires power companies to compensate those households with credits that can be used on future power bills. 

But under House Bill 227, the value of those credits would be reduced from the retail price of power to the wholesale price—a reduction of about two-thirds. 

Kycir.org

Gov. Matt Bevin has announced a new website for Kentuckians to find help for drug addiction and search for treatment centers. 

FindHelpNowKY.org has a search engine that allows users to find treatment centers based on location, facility type and type of treatment needed. 

 Bevin has launched an advertising campaign geared towards spreading awareness about the website and opioid addiction. 

Three lawmakers have been added to a committee considering a controversial bill that would scale back incentives for homes with solar panels. Capitol reporter Ryland Barton says the move might help extend the life of the bill, which has been controversial. 

The net metering bill has been on the agenda of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee twice, but hasn’t gotten a vote—possibly signaling there aren’t enough votes for it yet. 


WYMT.ORG

State lawmakers are once again considering a bill that would scale back how much homeowners with solar panels get reimbursed for putting energy back into the electrical grid, although  the legislation has stalled for the time-being. 


Kentucky.com

Leaders of Kentucky’s two largest universities warned lawmakers that Gov. Bevin’s proposed spending cuts would eliminate crucial programs and scholarships that benefit Kentuckians and attract businesses to the state. 

Bevin has proposed cutting most state spending by 6.25 percent and eliminating 70 programs—many of which are in higher education. 


LRC.GOV

Kentucky Lawmakers attended a mandatory sexual harassment prevention session today (Wed), a day after the House speaker announced he wouldn’t resign his seat amid a harassment scandal.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said lawmakers took the training session more seriously than in previous years. 

“Maybe less laughter in the room.” 

Kentucky.com

Lawmakers return to Frankfort this week for the 2018 General Assembly and are slated to make changes to the state’s pension systems, craft a new two-year budget and consider a variety of other legislation.

This will be the first time in Kentucky history that a budget will be written by a Republican-led legislature and governor. 
 

On WHAS Radio’s Terry Meiners Show, Bevin said major cuts are likely across state government. 

Ryland Barton

Friends and family of State Rep. Dan Johnson gathered for his funeral on the outskirts of Louisville on Monday. Johnson killed himself last week, days after accusations were published that he sexually assaulted a minor.  

The front lawn of the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville’s Fern Creek neighborhood became a parking lot Monday to accommodate hundreds of Johnson’s mourners, many of whom rode in on motorcycles. 
Johnson was the preacher at Heart of Fire, which has an orange sign out front proclaiming bikers are welcome. Next to it, another sign still carries the title of Johnson’s last planned sermon: “Satan Accuses God Says You’re Not Guilty.” 


LRC.GOV

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court, Communications Director Daisy Olivo claims she suffered workplace retribution after expressing concerns about Hoover’s relationship. 

CREDIT FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS/J. STEPHEN CONN

The removal of an honorific plaque from a statue of Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol has been delayed as officials review whether they have the authority to do so.

In response to public outcry over the statue of the Confederacy’s only president, the Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted earlier this year to remove the plaque that labels Davis as “patriot — hero — statesman.”

State Curator Leslie Nigels says lawyers in Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration are reviewing legislation that authorized the statue’s creation in 1931.

The new chair of Kentucky’s Democratic Party is banking on voters pushing back against Republicans’ near-total control of state government and congressional offices.

The CEO of an aluminum mill slated to open in eastern Kentucky claims the company will be able to sell aluminum for 50 percent cheaper than its competitors, allowing it to pay workers $65,000-per-year starting salaries.

Kentucky wildlife officials say the state needs to combat Asian carp, an invasive species that is disturbing the ecosystem in Kentucky’s western lakes.

More than a month after a court decision said Kentucky had to begin paying people who take care of foster children they’re related to, state officials say they still don’t know when or how it will begin making the payments. 

Kentucky is re-entering into a contract with a private prison company, nearly a decade after the state abandoned the organization amid allegations of sexual abuse and mismanagement of Kentucky inmates.

Kentucky’s Medicaid commissioner says federal officials are “real close” to approving Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to the state’s Medicaid system.

  Representatives of Kentucky’s Military Heritage Commission refused to comment on the surprise removal of two Civil War monuments from downtown Lexington last month.

Ryland Barton, Kentucky Public Radio

Republicans in Kentucky’s House of Representatives say Speaker Jeff Hoover still has their support after a report alleging he secretly settled a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer. 

GOP House members discussed Hoover’s position at closed-door meeting Friday.


A surge in the number of people receiving disability benefits in Kentucky is partly due to the state’s aging baby boomer population and other demographic trends, according to a left-leaning think tank.

As Gov. Matt Bevin’s mansion was inspected Tuesday by a board that will determine how much it’s worth, the governor lashed out on Twitter at reporters covering the meeting.

The value of Bevin’s home, located in the outskirts of Louisville, has been scrutinized in recent months after the Courier-Journal first reported he paid significantly less than the official estimate of the property’s value for the mansion and surrounding 10 acres.

Bevin bought the home for $1.6 million from Neil Ramsey, an investment manager and political donor whom the governor appointed to the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees.

The majority whip of the state Senate says he wants to expand Kentucky’s felony expungement law to allow people convicted of selling small amounts of marijuana to apply to clear their record after 10 years.

Though tax receipts into Kentucky’s general fund grew for the seventh year in a row, the state was still short about $135 million compared to predictions.

Some Kentucky lawmakers want the state to be the next to legalize medical marijuana, at least for end-of-life and hospice care.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said Kentucky shouldn’t be the last state to legalize the drug.

“There are other states doing this, we know there are benefits to doing it, and we know we can do it in a responsible way that provides ready and available relief to a lot of people,” McGarvey said.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill rolling back most parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which set up consumer protections and banking oversight in the wake of the 2008 financial disaster that led to a global economic recession.

President Donald Trump will be across the river from Kentucky Wednesday to promote his infrastructure plan.

And if Trump’s previous remarks are any indication, the plan could be heavily influenced by a Kentuckian who’s been dead for 165 years. 


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