Rick Howlett

Rick has been a member of the WFPL News team since 2001 and has covered numerous beats and events over the years.   Most recently he’s been tracking the Indiana General Assembly and the region’s passion for sports, especially college basketball.

Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Family, friends and former teammates and colleagues are paying tribute to Jim Bunning. The former U.S. Senator, Congressman and baseball Hall-of-Famer died Friday night. He was 85.

Bunning had suffered a stroke in October at his home in Southgate, Kentucky.

By the time Jim Bunning decided to enter politics, he already had a distinguished baseball career behind him. Bunning pitched for four teams during his 17-year career, mainly for Detroit and Philadelphia.

He’s still the only pitcher to throw no-hitters in both the National and American leagues. The second one, on Father’s Day, 1964, was a perfect game, as Bunning’s Phillies blanked the New York Mets.


J. Tyler Franklin

A Jefferson County grand jury has declined to return an indictment in connection with the sex scandal involving the University of Louisville men’s basketball program.

A criminal investigation was launched following the publication of the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” in which author Katina Powell claimed she was paid by former basketball staff member Andre McGee to provide strippers and prostitutes to Cardinal players and recruits.

A statement from Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine says there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Powell or McGee.

Rogerd/WikimediaCommons

Indiana state lawmakers have returned to their districts after adjourning the 2017 General Assembly early Saturday.

The Republican-led legislature met a goal set by GOP leaders to pass an ambitious plan to improve Indiana’s roads and bridges.

Indiana Public Broadcasting Statehouse reporter Brandon Smith said the plan will eventually raise $1.2 billion annually through an increase in the fuel tax and motor vehicle fees.

Wikimedia Commons

One of the lawyers for the Kentucky doctor dragged from a United Express flight said his client suffered a “significant” concussion and other injuries during the incident.

Attorney Thomas Demetrio at a news conference Thursday said that doctor David Dao has been discharged from a hospital, but the 69-year-old will need more medical attention.

“He had a serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses and he is going to be undergoing shortly, reconstructive surgery in that regard,” said Demetrio. “There’ve been a lot of inquiries about ‘did he really lose any teeth?’ Yeah, he lost two front teeth.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/KMJ Photography Australia

The Belle of Louisville steamboat is getting a new companion vessel. The Belle’s management team and the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation are purchasing the Georgia Queen based in Savannah. 

“It was built back in 1985, right across the river in Utica, Indiana at Marine Builders," said Belle CEO John Boyle.  "The boat is approximately 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and has a capacity for about 565 people.”

The Georgia Queen is smaller than the 102-year-old Belle of Louisville, but larger than the Spirit of Jefferson, which it’s replacing. The aging Spirit of Jefferson will be put up for sale when the Georgia Queen purchase is complete. 

Abbey Oldham

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he spoke to Donald Trump Wednesday and congratulated the president-elect on his victory in Tuesday’s election. Republicans also maintained their majorities in the House and Senate.

McConnell says Trump’s victory came in a “stunning” election.

“And clearly an indication that the American people would like to try something new,” he says. “And I know the speaker shares my view that we would like to see the country go in a different direction and intend to work with him to change the course for America.”

McConnell says he expects Trump to act quickly in nominating someone to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and to initiate the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

U of L

United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was in Louisville Monday to accept the Brandies Medal, awarded by the University of Louisville.

It’s named in honor of Louisville native, Justice Louis Brandeis, who began serving on the high court a century ago.

Kagan says she’s long admired Brandeis, especially the prescience of his judicial opinions.

“He really had a sense of like, what was coming down the pike,” she said. “Sometimes decades away. The best example of this is his dissent in ‘Olmstead,’ where he basically, there he is in like 1920 or something, and he’s foreseeing the surveillance state that we’re now thinking about.”

Kagan was also interviewed by two U of L law school professors, but did not discuss any specific cases from her tenure on the court.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Louisville has been chosen for a federal pilot program aimed at attacking the city’s heroin and prescription opioid problem.

The program, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is called the “360 Strategy.” It takes a multi-faceted approach to the problem and will involve law enforcement, medical and public health organizations and service groups.

It will include the formation of a Heroin Investigation Team, made up of Louisville Metro Police detectives and DEA agents.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn said the team will investigate overdoses as crime scenes. Dealers whose drugs cause overdoses will be prosecuted in federal court and could go to prison for 20 years to life without parole, he said.

“Today, we have a message for heroin dealers,” Kuhn said. “You are killing people in this city, and we cannot allow this to continue.”

J. Tyler Franklin

WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisville Foundation, the latest step in an ongoing public records fight.

The Foundation, led by former U of L President James Ramsey, manages the university’s some $700 million endowment.

The suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson Circuit Court, seeks an injunction to force the Foundation. to release ethics and disclosure forms, along with payroll and financial documents first requested by KyCIR in February.

The Foundation has resisted releasing the documents, saying the records requests were burdensome because they were “overly broad and blanket in nature.”

University of Louisville

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will be honored this week by the University of Louisville law school.

Kagan will receive the 2016 Brandeis Medal. It’s named for Louis Brandeis, a former justice and law school namesake.

She’ll be in Louisville Thursday, when she’s scheduled to place a wreath at Brandeis’ gravesite at the law school.  Kagan will receive the medal at an evening ceremony at the Seelbach Hotel.

Law school dean Susan Duncan says that’s when Kagan will be interviewed by one of her protégés.

“The person who will be conversing with her, interviewing her is a professor named Justin Walker, who was actually her law student when she was the dean at Harvard,” says Duncan. “And he is a former Supreme Court clerk himself.”

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s attorney general is suing health care and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for allegedly failing to disclose the potential risks associated with one of its surgical products.

Beshear’s office has filed a civil suit against the company and its medical supply unit, Ethicon for what it says was deceptive marketing of a vaginal mesh implant. The surgical mesh is a synthetic fabric used to treat common pelvic conditions experienced by women.

During a news conference Tuesday, Beshear said the company failed to disclose the potential risks and side effects associated with the product, including chronic pain and loss of urinary or sexual function.

“It’s chronic pain that they experience that prevents the most basic functions: using the restroom — and we’re not talking about discomfort, we’re talking about serious, searing pain — sexual relations, difficulty sleeping, sitting, working, moving,” Beshear said.

J. Tyler Franklin

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he still supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, despite the latest firestorm that has erupted over Trump’s most recent remarks about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

McConnell addressed the Middletown Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Many say Trump encouraged violence this week when he suggested “maybe there is” something supporters of the Second Amendment could do to stop Clinton from choosing Supreme Court justices. Trump’s campaign said he was referring to the political weight of the National Rifle Association and gun-rights advocates.

Met with laughter from the crowd, McConnell declined — tongue-in-cheek — to respond when asked what he thinks about Trump.

Rick Howlett

A central Kentucky college officially closes on Monday, after 85 years of operation.

Officials at St. Catharine College near Springfield announced in June that the school would shut down, citing declining enrollment and a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over a cut in financial aid.

The move left several hundred students scrambling to find a new school.  Many have transferred to similar-sized institutions such as Bellarmine, Midway and Kentucky State University.

More than 100 faculty and staff members were laid off.

St. Catharine President Cindy Gnadinger said it’s been a trying time for everyone.

J. Tyler Franklin

The first meeting of the reconstituted University of Louisville Board of Trustees has ended with the job status of school President James Ramsey apparently unchanged.

Ramsey was expected to offer his resignation to the new board. But Chairman Junior Bridgeman told reporters after the meeting that Ramsey did not submit his resignation, nor was he asked to resign.

Bridgeman said the new board will decide on Ramsey’s status after it reviews the matter more.

“I would just suggest and ask that you give the board the time to understand everything, and then everything will become evident,” he said.

Rick Howlett, WFPL

After years of planning, fundraising and a legal battle with the state, the Ark Encounter theme park opens to the public Thursday near Williamstown, in Northern Kentucky.

The park — which features a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark — was dedicated earlier this week in a ceremony that included the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. Some 7,000 donors got an early look at the ark, a literal interpretation of the story of Noah’s Ark told in the Old Testament of the Bible.

It was built by the Christian group Answers in Genesis, which also operates the Creation Museum not far away in Petersburg.

The official opening marks a moment of jubilation for the group’s founder, Ken Ham, and the park’s creators. But opponents aren’t staying silent.

Pages