Lisa Autry

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum.  She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years.  Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville.  She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky.  Many of her stories have been heard on NPR. 

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Society
6:11 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Southern Indiana Grappling with HIV Outbreak

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:42 pm

Governor Mike Pence has declared a public health emergency in one southern Indiana county. 

An HIV epidemic has been linked to intravenous drug use in Scott County. 

Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall says people are abusing a powerful painkiller that’s a cousin to Oxycontin and heroin.

"It's Oxymorphone, which the trade name for that is Opana," Walthall explained to WKU Public Radio.  "It's an incredibly powerful and potent opiate that comes in pill form, but can be crushed, boiled, and then injected."

The Indiana State Department of Health has confirmed 71 cases of HIV.  In comparison, Dr. Walthall says Scott County typically sees around five new HIV cases a year. 

The state is preparing to set up a temporary needle exchange program that will allow addicts to swap out dirty needles for clean ones in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

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Environment
2:51 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Dangerously High Levels of Arsenic Found on Ohio County Site

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 2:26 pm

The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered high levels of arsenic on a property in Ohio County.

Signs have been posted and a gate put up to keep people away from the site on Shinkle Chapel Road.  Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston says a former property owner initiated the probe.

"The lady who lived there became sick and her animals became sick.  She was a dog breed," Johnston tells WKU Public Radio.  "She started asking questions and reported it to the federal EPA."

While he only learned of the contamination two months ago, Johnston says the poison had been on the site since the 1940s.

"Someone brought in several drums of arsenic.  We don't know what the purpose of it was, but it was stored in a barn, which burned down seven years ago or so," Johnston adds.  "It wasn't a threat until then, but it got into a large area and killed all the trees on a few acres of land."

Soil samples revealed extremely high concentrations of the toxic element.  The poison hasn’t contaminated any water supplies. The federal EPA will be overseeing the cleanup.

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Government
12:35 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

WKU Economist Warns Against Minimum Wage Hike

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 12:03 pm

As Kentucky lawmakers consider increasing the state’s minimum wage, a WKU economics professor is warning such a move could have negative consequences. 

Dr. Brian Strow says a minimum wage hike would harm the people it’s meant to help. 

"More than half of minimum workers are 24 and younger," Strow tells WKU Public Radio.  "There's only about 15 percent of workers that are the major bread winner for their family."

The report, commissioned by the Bluegrass Institute, also notes that past minimum wage increase have resulted in higher unemployment in Kentucky relative to the rest of the country.  

"We are particularly hurt by increasing the minimum wage relative to the number of people working in Kentucky because a larger percentage of our population is actually working at minimum wage than in other states," he adds.

The Democratic-led Kentucky House earlier this month passed a bill that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.  The measure faces dim prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The last time state lawmakers approved a minimum wage increase was in 2007.  Supporters say the last increase has been eroded by inflation in the cost of living. 

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Society
4:04 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Poll: More Kentuckians Know Someone Impacted by Heroin

Credit Eric Molina, Wikimedia Commons

New data from the Kentucky Health Issues Poll suggests the state’s heroin epidemic may be worsening. Eleven percent of those asked know someone who’s had problems with the drug, up two percent from 2013.

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NPR Story
2:41 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

NTSB Issues Preliminary Report on Fatal Western Kentucky Plane Crash

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 2:18 pm

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on a deadly plane crash earlier this month in western Kentucky.  The accident killed everyone on board except for a young girl. 

The report released Friday shows the pilot of the twin-engine plane, Marty Gutzler, radioed to air traffic control that he was having "problems" with both of the plane’s engines.  He was instructed to land at the nearby Kentucky State Dam Airport.  Minutes later, Gutzler reported he had lost sight of the airfield.  There were no further radio communications from the plane. 

The January 2 crash killed Gutzler, his wife, their nine-year-old daughter and her cousin.  The NTSB report says the victims were found strapped in their seats.  The family was returning from Florida to their home in Nashville, Illinois. 

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Government
2:38 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Hardin County on the Verge of Passing Right-to-Work Law

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 2:22 pm

Hardin County is in line to become the fifth county in Kentucky to pass a local right-to-work law. 

The fiscal court is expected to give final approval Tuesday afternoon to a measure that allows workers in unionized companies to choose whether to join the union and pay dues.  Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry believes a local law is necessary to attract economic growth.

"We have a mega site that's just south of Elizabethtown in a community called Glendale with some 15,000 acres," Berry told WKU Radio Radio.  "It's a large site that is prime and ready to go."

Berry says local leaders are ready to go what Frankfort has not.

"I'd like to see the state do it statewide.  If the state had been successfully over the years of doing it, we wouldn't be in the position of counties trying to do this individually," added Berry.  "You might ask why we haven't done it before now and it's because we didn't realize we had the ability to do it before."

The matter is expected to wind up in court as legal opinions vary on whether local governments have the authority to pass right-to-work laws. 

Hardin County would join Warren, Simpson, Todd, and Fulton counties in approving local measures.

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Society
4:28 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Kelley Paul: Book has Nothing to Do With Presidential Politics

Kelley Paul, the wife of U.S. Senator Rand Paul, promoted her book "True and Constant Friends" to the Bowling Green Republican Women's Club.

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 4:20 pm

The wife of U.S. Senator Rand Paul is preparing to roll out her first book. 

Kelley Paul promoted the book titled “True and Constant Friends” to a gathering Tuesday of the Bowling Green Republican Women’s Club.  The book contains essays about inspiring women. 

Mrs. Paul told WKU Public Radio her inspiration to write the book came from her immigrant grandmother who fled poverty in Ireland in 1929 and traveled alone to the U.S. at a young age.

"I've given a lot of speeches about my grandmother since Rand entered politics because to me she is really the American dream story," commented Paul.

The book is set for release in April, around the same time Senator Paul plans to announce whether he will seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016.

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Government
4:05 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Simpson County on the Verge of Passing Local Right-to-Work Law

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 3:21 pm

Simpson County has become the third Kentucky county to give preliminary approval to a right-to-work law. 

The Simpson County Fiscal Court voted unanimously Tuesday on a local ordinance that allows workers to decide whether to join a union and pay dues without fear of losing their job.  Simpson County borders Tennessee which has a right-to-work law.  For Judge-Executive Jim Henderson, it’s an economic development issue.

"It is perceived by many new and expanding businesses throughout the country that Kentucky is not as business-friendly because we don't have right to work," Henderson told WKU Public Radio.  "Whether it's real or perceived doesn't really matter because when those companies are looking at locating a plant somewhere in the country, many of them simply won't look at Kentucky."

Eldon Renaud, president of the United Auto Workers Union in Bowling Green, spoke out against the ordinance at the fiscal court meeting, arguing right-to-work laws drive down wages and benefits for employees.

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Government
4:12 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Deadline Approaching to Purchase Health Insurance on Kentucky's Exchange

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 2:39 pm

An important deadline is just days away for Kentuckians needing health insurance. 

Although the second enrollment period on Kentucky’s health care exchange runs until February 15, residents must sign up for coverage by Monday in order to be covered when the new year begins. 

"If you wait until February 15th the soonest your effective date can be is March 1st," explains Kynect Executive Director Carrie Banahan.  "If you're wanting coverage by January 1st, you really need to enroll by Monday, December 15th."

More than 18,000 Kentuckians have been filed applications for private insurance or Medicaid since open enrollment began a month ago.  The first month of last year’s enrollment period resulted in 32,000 applications. 

"Keep in mind that last year we enrolled more than 400,000 people," adds Banahan.  "There was a lot of pent up demand among people who didn't have insurance coverage, and now a lot of folks do."

Most of the uninsured have gained coverage through an expansion of Medicaid. 

According to one poll, Kentucky's uninsured rate fell from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 in 2014.

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Business
10:24 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Western Kentucky County Could See Coal Jobs Cut in Half

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 3:13 pm

A western Kentucky county could lose half of its coal-mining workforce in the next couple of months. 

Coal mining employs about 1,200 people in Union County, but that could change, according to a layoff notice issued by Patriot Coal Corporation. 

The company is warning that up to 670 workers could be laid off in February at the Highland mine on the Union-Henderson County border and at the Dodge Hill complex.

Union County Judge-executive Jody Jenkins says, unfortunately, the news is familiar.

"For the last 60 years, I guess, coal mining has been the life blood of this community, Jenkins told WKU Public Radio.  "Historically, we've had mine closures and layoffs, but it doesn't make it any easier."

Union County's unemployment rate in October was 4.8%.  The statewide rate was 6.2%.

Patriot emerged from bankruptcy reorganization a year ago and had earlier closed its mines in Henderson County.  In a news release, the company said low natural gas prices and tougher EPA regulations continue to drive down coal prices, resulting in operating losses at many mines.

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