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Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Shively, was selected as the House Democratic floor leader in December, making her the first woman to lead a caucus in the Kentucky General Assembly. Renee speaks with her about her new role and legislative priorities for the session.
S15 E16 Length 22:01 Premiere: 1.12.20

Jefferson County Democrat Joni Jenkins made history when she was elected House Minority Floor Leader in December. That makes her the first female to lead a party caucus in the history of the state legislature. But the diversity in Democratic leadership in the chamber does not stop there: Party members elected Derrick Graham, an African American from Frankfort, to serve as the party's caucus chair, and Angie Hatton of Whitesburg as the new minority whip.

“Our caucus has gotten so much more diverse over the years,” says Jenkins. “We have 18 women in our caucus and, I believe, six people of color, so we look more like Kentucky than we ever have, and that’s a good thing.”

Despite the historic composition of their leadership, Democrats still face a supermajority of Republicans in the House. Jenkins says she prefers to see that not as a challenge but as an opportunity.

“The majority leadership needs our help, they need having our good ideas,” she says. “I feel like they’re going to be open to listening to some of those things.”

Jenkins says she considers House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) a friend. The two Jefferson County representatives have served together in the House for 15 years. (Jenkins started in Frankfort in 1995, Osborne in 2005.) In that spirit of bipartisanship, Jenkins hopes lawmakers can "disagree without being disagreeable."

“When you serve so long, these folks become part of your family,” says the Democrat. “We really are just all people and... we really need to respect each other.”

Education

Like the state's new Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, Jenkins says House Democrats will make public schools their priority.

“If we’re going to move Kentucky forward,” she says, “it starts with education.”

During the interim period, several House Democrats drafted their own education-related bills, including measures to reduce class size and implement universal pre-kindergarten, according to Jenkins.

Gov. Beshear wants to give all public school teachers a $2,000 pay raise. Jenkins supports that idea, but says she's uncertain how to secure the estimated $84 million a year to make that happen.

Republicans tout that under their leadership, the legislature has increased per-pupil funding to a record high of $4,000. But Democrats contend that funding hasn't kept pace with inflation, and that Republicans also cut dollars for textbooks, teacher professional development, student transportation, and other services.

“You can use the numbers any way you want to say we're fully funding, but there's always more need there,” says Jenkins, “to be able to pay teachers what they deserve, and to attract new people into this career path... and to give, in the classroom, the children what they need, whether it’s technology, textbooks, and wrap-around services.”

State Revenues

Jenkins says it's no secret the state doesn't take in enough revenue to cover its obligations. That's why she says it's crucial for lawmakers to consider new sources of funds like proceeds from sports wagering and expanded gaming. (Senate Republican leaders have already said proposals for casinos are "dead on arrival" in the upper chamber.)

She says Democrats are also willing to look at tax reform so long as it doesn't "pick winners and losers" by giving more tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations.

“We want business to do well, but I don’t think that we can calculate how well Kentucky is doing by how the wealthiest among us are doing,” says the Democrat.

Politicians, says Jenkins, do their constituents a disservice by talking about taxes as something negative.

“I look taxes as an investment in our communities,” she says, “but I think people need to be very secure and confident that their tax money is fair – that it’s being collected fairly and applied fairly, and that they are afforded services for that – that they see what they’re investing in.”

Other Issues

Jenkins also hopes lawmakers will do more to alleviate the opioid addiction crisis and to further reform the criminal justice system. She says it makes no sense to charge local governments to hold low-level, non-violent suspects because they can't afford to pay their bail.

“We incarcerate a whole lot of folks in the state of Kentucky [and] a whole lot of women,” says Jenkins. “I'm looking forward to seeing bipartisan work on that.”

The Democrat contends there are smarter ways to hold people accountable for crimes and keep communities safe. She also says the state could save money and lives by intervening sooner in situations involving addiction, mental illness, and intimate partner violence.

In 2017 and 2018 Jenkins worked with House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade (R-Stanford) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to craft a sweeping overhaul of the state's adoption and child welfare systems. House Bill 1 passed the lower chamber on a 94-1 vote, and cleared the Senate, 38-0. Jenkins says that bill provides a model for how lawmakers can work together.

“The best policy does come when you sit around a table with people you don’t agree [with] and you exchange ideas and everybody moves a little bit,” she says.

Despite the reforms of HB 1, some 10,000 Kentucky children remain in state care. Jenkins says it will take years to overcome the far-reaching social ills that drug addiction and poverty have inflicted on families. She says lawmakers must also tread carefully in passing new legislation that may inadvertently impact children. For example, she fears immigration proposals before the 2020 General Assembly could result in more immigrants to be incarcerated. If that occurs, Jenkins wonders what could happen to those children left without a caregiver or breadwinner.

As she starts her 26th year in Frankfort, Jenkins says she still gets excited at the start of each legislative session. She describes as being like the first day of school when you're able to catch up with old friends you haven't seen for a while. As the daughter of two public servants – her father was a mayor of Shively, and her mother worked for Jefferson County government – Jenkins says she also enjoys being able to represent her constituents and lead her caucus.

“You can't walk into that chamber without feeling the history there,” she says, “and the honor and the responsibility that has been afforded to you by your district to come and be their voice there.”

Program Details

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Each week, host Renee Shaw and a variety of interesting and engaging people - including business leaders, entertainers, authors, celebrities, and more - explore a broad array of topics impacting Kentucky and the world.

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Filmmaker Sarah Burns - S17 E3

Renee Shaw talks with filmmaker Sarah Burns about her new documentary Muhammad Ali, a six-year project that offers viewers a multifaceted look at Louisville's most famous son who went on to become heavyweight champion of the world as well as one of the world's most charismatic and controversial figures.

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Whitney Austin - Reducing Gun Violence - S17 E4

Renee Shaw talks with Whitney Austin, who narrowly survived a shooting at a Cincinnati bank three years ago. Now, she's the founder of Whitney/Strong, an organization dedicated to forging common-sense, bipartisan solutions to reducing gun violence.

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Kiley Lane Parker - S10 E29

Filmmaker Kiley Lane Parker discusses her film, Raising Ms. President, about raising the next generation of female political leaders.

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Pellom McDaniels - S10 E30

Pellom McDaniels, faculty curator of African-American collections and assistant professor of African-American studies at Emory University in Atlanta, talks about his book, The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy.

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Jay Williams - S10 E33

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams is a former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. From the recent SOAR summit in Pikeville, he talks about how Youngstown recovered from the decline of the steel industry and how those lessons can apply to Eastern Kentucky areas distressed by the sharp downturn in coal jobs.

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Susan and Morgan Guess - S10 E34

Susan Guess and her daughter, Morgan, began the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation nearly four years ago after Morgan experienced bullying. They have raised $50,000 to bring a variety of anti-bullying programs to the region. Susan Guess was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear in 2014 to serve on the Kentucky Bully Prevention Task Force, which will make recommendations to the governor in fall 2015.

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Diabetes Epidemic - S10 E20

Gilbert Friedell, MD, and J. Isaac Joyner, MPH, discuss their book, "The Great Diabetes Epidemic: A Manifesto for Control and Prevention". The book advocates taking a public health approach to addressing diabetes, emphasizes prevention of diabetes-related complications, and encourages more community responsiveness.

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Cathy Zion - Zion Publications LLC - S10 E38

Cathy Zion became owner and publisher of Zion Publications in 1996, after a long career in banking. Her company publishes Today's Woman, and added new magazines, Today's Transitions and Today's Family.

  • Tuesday October 5, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Gigi Butler - Gigi's Cupcakes - S10 E39

Gigi Butler opened her first Gigi's Cupcakes location just off of music row in Nashville, Tennessee in 2008 and in six short years, with 98 locations and counting, Gigi's is now the largest cupcake franchise in the world.

  • Wednesday October 6, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Cathe Dykstra - Family Scholar House - S10 E41

Cathe Dykstra, chief possibility officer, president & CEO of Family Scholar House, discusses the Louisville organization and its impact on families and communities. Family Scholar House's mission is to end the cycle of poverty by providing housing and educational support to single-parent students and their families.

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Infant Nutrition and Breastfeeding - S10 E42

Renee and her guests discuss the health benefits of breastfeeding in recognition of national breastfeeding week, as well as provide tips on proper infant nutrition. Scheduled guests include: Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, Breastfeeding Support Services with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Dept.; Ana Maria Linares, an associate professor in the UK College of Nursing and a Lactation Consultant who has conducted research on attitudes and practices around breastfeeding among Latinas in Lexington; and Nicole Peritore, program coordinator for the Health Education through Extension Leadership (HEEL) Office at the University of Kentucky.

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Connections

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Connections

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Andre Taylor - S10 E43

Andre Taylor has a distinguished 35-year career, building and advising businesses. He's the author of You Can Still Win! and a half-dozen other books, a frequent guest expert on ABC News, and an international authority on winning and leadership. Mr. Taylor was a speaker at the 13th Annual Lexington Bluegrass Area Minority Business Expo.

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JoAnne Wheeler Bland - S10 E44

Renee talks with transgender activist JoAnne Wheeler Bland, who in her sixties transitioned from male to female. A practicing attorney for more than 40 years, she is a former Special Justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court, former Vice-President of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, current member of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education's Committee on Equal Opportunity (the Diversity Committee), and guest speaker at Women's and Gender Studies programs at Kentucky universities.

  • Tuesday October 12, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Faith Politics - S10 E45

Renee and her guests talk about the role of religion in politics and public policy decision-making. Guests: Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church, and Rev. D. Anthony Everett, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church.

  • Wednesday October 13, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kinship Care - S10 E46

Kentucky has one of the highest rates in the nation of children being raised by grandparents and other relatives, also known as kinship care. Renee and her guests discuss what research tells us about the financial, emotional, and legal challenges that kinship care poses. Guests: Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, and Jeanne Miller-Jacobs, a kinship care provider.

  • Thursday October 14, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk - S11 E2

Renee Shaw interviews new Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk, who talks about his experiences in public education and his goals for the district.

  • Friday October 15, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections

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The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia - Gerald Smith - S11 E3

Renee's guest is Dr. Gerald Smith, an author and history professor at the University of Kentucky, and co-editor of The Kentucky African-American Encyclopedia: Life and Culture in the Commonwealth. The reference book contains entries on the individuals, events, places, organizations, movements, and institutions that helped shape the state's history and cultural diversity.

  • Monday October 18, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Childhood Cancer - S11 E4

September is childhood cancer awareness month. Renee talks with survivors and parents about their experiences and the research on the rare maladies striking youth.

  • Tuesday October 19, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kellie Blair Hardt - S11 E5

Renee speaks with special education teacher Kellie Blair Hardt, who overcame homelessness, an absent mother, an alcoholic father and school expulsion to earn her GED. She received the National Education Association Foundation's 2013 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence as one of the nation's top educators. Hardt is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education at George Mason University. She was featured in KET's series Dropping Back In.

  • Wednesday October 20, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Jacinda Townsend - S11 E6

Author Jacinda Townsend discusses her critically acclaimed novel, Saint Monkey, a coming-of-age story set in 1950's Eastern Kentucky. The book won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for historical fiction. Townsend is a former Hurston-Wright Award finalist and currently teaches creative writing at Indiana University.

  • Thursday October 21, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dorothy Butler Gilliam - S11 E7

Renee speaks with journalist Dorothy Butler Gilliam, who was the first African-American female reporter at The Washington Post. She retired in 2003 after a 35-year career with the paper.

  • Friday October 22, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S17 E8

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Allison Joseph - S11 E8

Allison Joseph is the author of six poetry books. She teaches at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where she helped found {Crab Orchard Review}, a literary journal, and the Young Writers Workshop, a co-ed residential summer program for teen writers.

  • Monday October 25, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Ari Berman - S11 E9

Renee's guest is Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights and the intersection of money and politics. The title of his new book is Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.

  • Tuesday October 26, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Miss Kentucky Clark Davis - S11 E10

Renee speaks with Miss Kentucky Clark Davis, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky majoring in vocal performance, with a minor in political science. Davis was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. Her pageant platform is dyslexia awareness.

  • Wednesday October 27, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Kevin Chapman - S10 E28

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Kendell Nash - ECHO - S10 E27

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Dorothy Edwards and Diane Fleet - S10 E26

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Lois Combs Weinberg - S10 E25

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Elaine Chao - S10 E23

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Filmmaker Sarah Burns - S17 E3

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Diabetes Epidemic - S10 E20

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Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees - S10 E16

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15K Degrees Initiative - S10 E13

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Sister Helen Prejean - S10 E12

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Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court - S10 E11

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Charlene Buckles and Dan Wu - S17 E2

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  • Wednesday September 15, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 15, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 15, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 15, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Cynthia Knapek - Leadership Louisville Center

  • Sunday September 12, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Bill Farmer - S10 E8

  • Friday September 10, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Diane Follingstad - UK Women's Circle Endowment Chair - S10 E6

  • Thursday September 9, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 9, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kevin Chapman - S10 E5

  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 2:20 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 1:20 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Soreyda Benedit Begley and Chris Begley - S10 E3

  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Chris Rabb - S10 E1

  • Friday September 3, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

  • Thursday September 2, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence - S9 E44

  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marta Miranda - S9 E43

  • Monday August 30, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

  • Sunday September 5, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 4, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 4, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

The Rise of Anti-Asian Violence

  • Sunday August 29, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday August 28, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday August 28, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET

Judi Jennings - S9 E42

  • Friday August 27, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dr. Robert Hilgers - S9 E41

  • Thursday August 26, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Wil James - S9 E40

  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

African Americans and Mental Health - S9 E39

  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
Top

Season 15 Episodes

UK College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig

S15 E24 Length 26:41 Premiere Date 3.22.20

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball/McLeod's Coffee House

S15 E23 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 3.15.20

Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon

S15 E22 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 2.23.20

Georgetown College President William Jones

S15 E21 Length 27:02 Premiere Date 2.16.20

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

S15 E20 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 2.9.20

Kentucky House Minority Whip Angie Hatton

S15 E19 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 2.2.20

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

S15 E18 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 1.26.20

Secretary of State Michael Adams

S15 E17 Length 28:47 Premiere Date 1.19.20

Kentucky House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

S15 E16 Length 22:01 Premiere Date 1.12.20

Ashli Watts - Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

S15 E15 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 1.5.20

U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan

S15 E14 Length 27:18 Premiere Date 12.15.19

Inclusivity in Fashion - Frankie Lewis; RaeShanda Johnson

S15 E13 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 11.24.19

Dayna Seelig

S15 E12 Length 26:57 Premiere Date 11.17.19

Rachael Denhollander

S15 E11 Length 26:42 Premiere Date 11.10.19

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland

S15 E10 Length 26:55 Premiere Date 11.3.19

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist

S15 E9 Length 26:37 Premiere Date 10.27.19

Sharon Price and Damon Cobble

S15 E7 Length 27:07 Premiere Date 10.13.19

Terry Brooks - Kentucky Youth Advocates

S15 E6 Length 27:47 Premiere Date 10.6.19

Aaron Thompson - Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

S15 E5 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 9.29.19

Opioid Addiction Response and Research

S15 E3 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 9.15.19

Pastor Edward Palmer

S15 E2 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 9.8.19

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers

S15 E1 Length 28:14 Premiere Date 9.1.19

Explore KET