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

ACLU of Kentucky

The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit for a case in Muhlenberg County over song lyrics in a Facebook post.

In August, James Evans of Central City posted lyrics on his Facebook page from a song called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” by the band Exodus. The 2010 song is about the Virginia Tech shooting.

Evans was arrested that month on a criminal charge of first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony. The charge was eventually dismissed.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming Muhlenberg County Police Officer Michael Drake falsely arrested Evans for posting those lyrics. Evans’ attorneys—Brenda Popplewell and William Sharp—claim that arrest was illegal and violated their clients’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed at a U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky and names Muhlenberg County and Officer Drake as defendants.

Ashley Lopez, WFPL

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul’s efforts to appeal to minority voters hit a rough patch over the past week.

The junior senator from Kentucky made some off-hand comments during the peak of unrest in the city of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray—a black man who died in police custody. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently said there is probable cause to file criminal homicide charges against six police officers following Gray’s death.

Paul told a conservative talk show host Tuesday he was glad his train didn’t make a stop in Baltimore during the riots and protests there.

There was almost immediate backlash, mostly from minority groups.

But later in the week, Paul said there was nothing to apologize for.

“My comments I think were misinterpreted in some ways,” he told reporters during a small event in Buckner on Friday.

Ashley Lopez, WFPL

Kentucky’s case before the Supreme Court started with a conversation between attorneys Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliott.

As they chatted in Fauver’s Louisville office, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a piece of legislation that was an obstacle to same-sex marriage being made legal in the U.S.

“We were waiting actually for the Supreme Court on the Windsor case and at that point we didn’t know what the ruling was going to be—and they kept postponing,” Fauver said.

“And we were talking about what would happen next, like would be the next steps for anybody to take,” she said. “And we were talking about the fact that someone should file a lawsuit here, and we checked around and no one was talking about it.”

That conversation would lead to lawsuits that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Six Kentucky same-sex couples and their attorneys are heading to Washington and the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments for their challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban will be heard by the high court Tuesday.

The twelve Kentuckians—most from Louisville—are asking the nation’s highest court to overturn a circuit court ruling that kept the state’s gay marriage ban intact.

Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliott from the Fauver law firm in Louisville were the first to file lawsuits challenging the ban. Fauver says she’s still surprised their case got this far, "Dawn and I sit around sometimes and say, ‘look what we started.’ We had no idea this would be the case that goes to the Supreme Court when we started. " she said.

Kentucky’s case is bundled with gay marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
A ruling from the high court is expected this summer.

Republican Senator Rand Paul is now the first presidential candidate to accept contributions in the form of Bitcoin. The digital currency is new territory for campaign finance law.

Richard Hasen is a law and political science professor at the University of California-Irvine.
He says he doesn’t think Bitcoin will provide a significant source of funding for Paul’s campaign, but he’s not surprised the Republican candidate has chosen to accept Bitcoin. "I think it’s more of a novelty and it certainly fits in with Senator Paul’s image to try to be tech-savvy and there is a kind of a libertarian edge to Bitcoin. So, I think it is quite a natural fit for him to be the one to do it." he said.

But, there are some issues. Bitcoin makes it easier to contribute to a political campaign anonymously and
Hasen says Paul’s campaign will have to rely on donors to provide information, since Bitcoin is an untraceable and unregulated currency.

Hasen says Paul’s campaign is also going to have to make sure contributions aren’t from foreign countries.
The Paul campaign is only accepting up to 100 dollars in Bitcoin contributions per individual.

A research group that compiles political fundraising invitations from around the country found that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s fundraising efforts provide a snapshot into the junior senator’s campaign that is different from his rhetoric.

According to Political Party Time, an arm of the Sunlight Foundation, “Paul has thrown 26 get-togethers to benefit his own campaign coffers…. [and] of that tally, more than half have taken place in Washington, D.C.”

During his presidential run announcement on Tuesday, Paul portrayed his candidacy as an effort to change Washington from the outside. He criticized D.C. politics and said special interests hold too much power in the nation’s capitol.

“We have come to take our country back from the special interests that use Washington as their personal piggy bank, the special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare,” he told a large room of supporters in Louisville this week.

Paul assured the crowd his campaign would be different.

“Too often when Republicans have won, we have squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine,” he said. “That’s not who I am.”

President Obama visited downtown Louisville Thursday in an effort to bring light to a federal grant program that will help cities train more people for tech jobs.  The president praised Louisville officials for their efforts to make these jobs more accessible to the city’s residents.

 Obama told a group of supporters and employees at Indatus that there are about two thousand vacant IT positions in Louisville. He says it’s mostly because there aren’t enough people with tech skills to fill them.
Indatus is a data technology downtown that is among a handful of companies committed to hiring people who finish a local online coding workshop called Code Louisville.

Obama said Code Louisville—which involves city government, local businesses and grants from the federal government-- is a proven way to close that gap. "And my administration is proud to be investing in Code Louisville because we want more places to follow Kentucky’s example." he said.

In an effort to replicate Code Louisville throughout the country, the White House is offering one hundred million dollars in grants to cities interested in training their residents for the tech industry.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Doc Searls

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.

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