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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Politics
9:37 am
Tue May 12, 2015

Poll: GOP Gubernatorial Race a Toss Up

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 9:31 am

One week from Kentucky’s primary election, the four Republican candidates for governor still have some convincing to do.

A survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling shows only three points separate three of the four GOP contenders.  The poll puts James Comer in the lead with 28 percent support, followed by Hal Heiner at 27 percent, and Matt Bevin at 25 percent.  The survey did not include former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott. 

Despite accusations that he abused his college girlfriend, Comer maintains the highest favorability rating of the three candidates.  While he emphatically denies the abuse allegations, 50 percent of voters have a positive opinion of him.  Bevin is close behind at 48 percent.   Heiner is in last place with his 44 percent favorability rating. 

The poll questioned 501 Republicans and was funded by the Democratic PAC Kentucky Family Values.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.

The winner of next Tuesday’s primary will likely face Democratic frontrunner Jack Conway in the November election.

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Education
11:44 am
Fri May 8, 2015

Schools Sound Off on Federal Nutrition Guidelines

U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie, R-KY, eats lunch with students at Plano Elementary in Warren County.

Originally published on Mon May 11, 2015 9:21 am

A federal law championed by First Lady Michelle Obama is up for reauthorization later this year. 

At Plano Elementary School in Warren County Thursday, Kentucky’s 2nd District Congressman Brett Guthrie solicited feedback on the Healthy  and Hunger-free Kids Act which became law in 2010. 

Following a roundtable discussion, Guthrie said he learned that schools want more flexibility in preparing meals.

"Everyone wants kids to eat healthy, but when you write a single rule that comes out of Washington, DC, that goes into every cafeteria of every school, they don't always work," Guthrie told WKU Public Radio.

While the federal act has brought more nutritious meals into school cafeterias, much of the food is wasted. 

"If a kid doesn't pick up an apple, the school won't get reimbursed from the federal government if the kid is on free or reduced lunch," Guthrie explained.  "A lot of times they have to make the kids pick up an apple and walk out with it knowing that it's going in the garbage."

Cafeteria managers says the healthy food has resulted in more children bringing their lunch from home.  Most of the children not eating cafeteria food are from middle and upper class families that pay full price for their lunch.  It hurts schools monetarily when those children who pay full price bring their lunch from home. 

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Education
3:55 pm
Wed April 29, 2015

Budget Shortfall Forces Henderson County Teacher Layoffs

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 3:43 pm

The Henderson County public school system is preparing to lay off teachers for next year. 

The exact number of positions affected is unknown, though cuts are planned at every school.

Public Information Officer Julie Wisher says the school system is over-staffed.

"What we've done is realign ourselves with the staffing formulas that are set out by the Kentucky Department of Education," adds Wisher.  "In the past we had gone over those formulas."

Wisher says the school district has also absorbed the cost of programs previously funded by grants. 

In order to balance next year’s budget, Henderson County schools must reduce expenses by $6.7 million. 

Official layoff notices will be going out at the end of next week.  The cuts are expected to affect only non-tenured staff.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education will meet in special session Thursday morning to discuss the budget and cost savings.

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Politics
8:32 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Most of Kentucky's GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Vow to Pull the Plug on Kynect

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 11:13 pm

Less than a month shy of the primary election, three of Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates debated Tuesday night in Bowling Green. 

The event at WKU featured Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. 

If elected, all three pledged to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange known as Kynect. 

Comer said the state took on a lot of responsibility that it can’t afford.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who got on Kynect ended up on Medicaid," Comer explained.  "What Kynect became for Governor Beshear was a way to greatly expand Medicaid to the point to where we have 25 percent of the state on Medicaid, one out of four people.  That's not sustainable."

As governor, Comer said he would get more Kentuckians into private health coverage while changing eligibility requirements for Medicaid. 

Matt Bevin said he would transition those who signed up on Kentucky’s exchange to the federal exchange.

"Frankly, it's a level of redundancy we can't afford.  It's as simple as that," Bevin suggested.  "We were lured into participation through the use of federal dollars."

Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab.

Hal Heiner suggested tying the Medicaid expansion to workforce training so people could get a job, get off of Medicaid, and obtain private insurance.  He criticized the Medicaid expansion for lacking any level of personal responsibility.

"It doesn't have what you're seeing conservative governors in other states adopt in their plans which build in incentives to use preventive care, to use primary care providers rather than emergency care, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the overall cost," Heiner stated. 

The candidates were mostly in agreement on range of economic topics from making Kentucky a right-to-work state to protecting the coal industry. 

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Will T. Scott did not attend the debate, citing a scheduling conflict.

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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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