Ashley Lopez

Ashley Lopez is a reporter for WGCU News. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree. 

Previously, Lopez was a reporter for Miami's NPR member station, 

WLRN-Miami Herald News. Before that, she was a reporter at The Florida Independent. She also interned for Talking Points Memo in New York City and WUNC in Durham, North Carolina. She also freelances as a reporter/blogger for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Send news pitches to wgcunews at wgcu.org

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Public opinion will flip in favor of same-sex marriage—though it will take time to happen, an attorney who helped lead the legal fight against California’s anti-same-sex union law Proposition 8 said in Louisville this week.

This month, the Bluegrass Poll found opposition to same-sex marriage has grown in Kentucky from 50 percent to 57 percent since last summer.

Speaking at a forum with University of Louisville law students on Tuesday, attorney David Boies said other states have set an example of how acceptance of same-sex marriage will play out in the U.S.

“You have marriage equality now in Florida, in Virginia, in the Carolinas, and Utah,” Boies said. “I mean, these were states were people said ‘marriage equality will never work, people will be up in arms, the sky will be falling.’

“Well what happened? Well, nothing happened except everyone got to marry the person they love.”

A voting rights advocate says a potential Republican Party presidential caucus in Kentucky next year would need to include specific rules to protect overseas voters’ rights.

This month, state GOP leaders gave preliminary approval to conducting a presidential caucus in 2016 instead of the usual primary. The change was requested by Sen. Rand Paul—a likely 2016 presidential candidate—to get around a state law banning candidates from appearing twice on a ballot.

Grace Ramsey, a voting expert of the Maryland-based election reform advocacy group Fair Vote, said a presidential caucus itself isn’t a problem. But because caucuses consist of sequential rounds of in-person voting, the process of including absentee voters can be tricky.

“Obviously this is this in-person process and if you can’t be there it can cause problems for participation, and it is entirely possible to adjust and adapt and make sure that those voters can be included,” she explained.

One option Ramsey suggested: sending overseas voters ranked ballots. The voters would list candidates in order of preference; Ramsey said such a process would help ensure overseas voters’ opinions counted throughout the caucus’ process of elimination.

According to the Kentucky State Board of Elections’ records, 279 military and overseas voters returned absentee ballots for the 2012 Primary Election.

A committee of state GOP officials will decide the rules and procedures for the caucus and present it to a larger committee of the Kentucky GOP in August, when the party will hold a final vote on the matter.

WKU PBS

Voting rights advocates say a plan that would allow Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul to skirt a state law prohibiting candidates from appearing twice on a ballot could cause problems for absentee voters.

The state GOP has given preliminary approval to a plan to switch from a primary to a caucus in 2016.

consist of sequential rounds of in-person voting that eliminate candidates until there is a winner.

Grace Ramsey with the Maryland-based group Fair Votes says this method of voting could leave out those who can’t be there in person, if there aren’t proper procedures in place.

“We definitely recommend that for military and overseas voters that if there is going to be a caucus process, which it sounds like there is going to be, to send them ranked ballots and allow them to send those back in so that we have an idea of what they would do were they able to be there in person.”

A final vote on the proposed rules for the caucus will go before Kentucky GOP officials in late summer.

Hal Heiner campaign

Hal Heiner leads other Republican candidates for this year’s gubernatorial election, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The former Louisville Metro Council member leads with 28 percent of the vote in a poll conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, WHAS, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT. The poll surveyed 1,917 registered voters.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Matt Bevin tied for second with 20 percent of the vote. Bevin unsuccessfully ran last year as a tea party candidate in the Republican Senate primary. He was defeated by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Heiner not only lead in the polls. According to financial disclosures, Heiner’s campaign is also millions of dollars ahead of the other GOP candidates.

According to his latest disclosure, Heiner has almost $3.5 million in his campaign coffers. So far, Heiner has donated more than $4 million of his own money to his campaign.

Greg Blair, Heiner’s new campaign spokesman,, said money and airtime is not what’s driving these numbers, though.

“I don’t think anyone has worked harder than Hal Heiner to get out and talk to people and listen to people and hear what they are concerned about,” Blair said.

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Louisville is one of 21 communities across the U.S. committing to increasing access to high tech jobs, city officials said Monday.

The city’s effort is part of a larger federal initiative announced Monday aimed at getting Americans to fill the increasing number of vacant information technology jobs in the U.S.

Employers around the country are having a hard time finding qualified and skilled workers for these positions. The national initiative, announced by President Obama, aims to get communities to train people for those jobs.

During a conference call with the White House, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was identified as one of the community leaders working with employers and the federal government to extend training opportunities to residents.

Maitree Laipitaksin, 123rf Stock Photo

Leading candidates for the Republican nomination in this year’s gubernatorial race say they all want to make Kentucky’s business climate more like the one in Texas. 

During speeches last week, candidates Matt Bevin, James Comer, Hall Heiner and Will T. Scott all promised to carry out plans aimed at reducing state taxes and regulations on businesses. 
They also said they are hoping to model the Commonwealth after Texas, which has been leading the nation for economic growth. 

Janet Kelly is with the Urban Affairs Institute at the University of Louisville. She says these plans—in practice—might not pan-out like the candidates hope. 

“Kentucky can’t be like Texas. Texas produces more oil than Venezuela.” 

She says the two states shouldn’t be compared since Texas has other variables like revenue from oil and more immigration. 

“It might well be that if we adopted the very same kinds of policies we might see very different results.” 

The GOP candidates also claim Kentucky’s tax structure is a job creation-killer, which Kelly says is not true. 

The four candidates will square off in the May primary.

Industry groups from around the state have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping Louisville’s minimum wage ordinance from going into effect.

Brent Baughman is an attorney representing the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited.

“Unlike other litigation, this is a pure question of law for a court to decide," Baughman says.

Mackenzie Cantrell, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said the judge’s decision could have larger implications for state municipalities that are enacting laws that don’t get passed on the state level.

Louisville’s ordinance will increase the minimum wage to $9 dollars over the next three years. The ordinance is still set to kick in July 1.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Florida's citrus industry has a new problem. It's long wrestled with crop diseases like canker and greening. But the effort to halt greening has killed millions of bees, as growers have increased their use of pesticides.

And that, in turn, is straining relationships between citrus farmers and their longtime partners, beekeepers. Here's Ashley Lopez of member station WGCU.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Harold Curtis runs an 1,100-acre grove in southwest Florida. He walks through the rows of trees, packed full of plump, juicy oranges.

More than 200 manatees have died in Florida's waterways since January from an algae bloom called red tide, just as wildlife officials try to remove the marine mammal from the endangered species list.

It used to be boat propellers that were the biggest killer of manatees, but red tide has been especially bad this year.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officer Steve Rice routinely scours the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida for dead manatees. He has found more than 20 in the past few weeks.