The Commonwealth

Local news

John Hingsbergen

Hundreds gathered in Lexington’s Triangle Park Sunday night for a vigil in memory of the victims of the nation’s worst mass shooting. 

Worship leader of Bluegrass United Church of Christ, Kenny Bishop offered this with his opening comments, inviting those in attendance to say with him,  “God is love.”

Bishop told those gathered scripture says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” 

Reflecting on the tragic loss of life inside a gay bar in Orlando, a range of emotions was running through the downtown crowd.  The gunman had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. 

From a Facebook notice posted Sunday by Lexington Fairness:  

"This morning, America and the world woke up to the worst mass shooting in the history of The United States. This vigil is meant to bring our community together to show our community's support for the Orlando and entire Flordia community. Please make plans to join at Triangle Park starting at 8:00 pm. There will be a limited supply of candles, so if you have some please bring them."

Ky. Constables: Untrained & Unaccountable

Jun 8, 2016

Kentucky has hundreds of elected constables. They can wear badges & carry guns. They have the authority to pull you over, serve you with court papers and even arrest you.

What many of them don't have is law enforcement training.

Here's R.G. Dunlop of WFPL's Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting with "Untrained and Unaccountable," a joint investigation with WAVE-3 News.

Services have been scheduled for Friday in Louisville for boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday.


Former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal and broadcaster Bryant Gumbel are scheduled to deliver eulogies.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor Ali.

The three-time heavyweight champion had been hospitalized in the Phoenix area since last Monday with respiratory problems and his children had flown in from around the country.

Mercer-Boyle County Jail Among Most Overcrowded in Ky.

May 26, 2016

Officials say the Mercer-Boyle County Jail is at 170 percent capacity, making it one of the most overcrowded jails in Kentucky.  

Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon says the jail has a population of 327 inmates.

The Advocate Messenger reports the jail has a record number of female inmates, with 85. Harmon says it is the fourth-most overcrowded jail in the state. Nearby Lincoln County is at the top of that list at 204 percent capacity with 147 inmates.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's Democratic attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to decide whether Gov. Matt Bevin has the authority to cut college and university budgets without the approval of the state legislature.

A state judge ruled last week that Bevin does have the authority to order public colleges and universities not to spend all of the money the state legislature gave them. Attorney General Andy Beshear is appealing the decision, arguing it gives the governor's office too much power.

Ky. Police Officers Killed in Service Honored

May 24, 2016
Ky. Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation

Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training held its annual Law Enforcement Memorial service Monday at the training facility in Richmond. 

Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley addressed the crowd of several hundred gathered at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, “We can gather on days like today, and honor the memory of those who have gone before us. We can say thank you, those are powerful words, not enough, but powerful.”

Fallen Law Officers to be Honored in Richmond Memorial Ceremony

May 19, 2016

Kentucky will honor four law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty last year during an annual memorial ceremony at the state's Department of Criminal Justice Training. 

A statement from the agency says the May 23 event in Richmond will honor the sacrifice of Kentucky State Police troopers Cameron Ponder and Eric Chrisman, Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis and Nicholasville Police Officer Burke Rhoads. Ponder and Ellis were fatally shot while investigating calls. Rhoads and Chrisman died in car crashes.

State Police Used to Prevent Ousted Retirement System Chair from Meeting Participation

May 19, 2016

Kentucky's Republican governor used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting.

Gov. Matt Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board last month. But Elliott had refused to vacate his seat, saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby. Elliot said the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

Online License Renewal Now Available in Ky. Counties

May 13, 2016

Motorists in most Kentucky counties can now renew their vehicle registrations online.  The application process allows motorists to renew standard, specialty, and personalized Kentucky license plates.  

Ryan Watts with the state transportation department says online registration will allow citizens to save on parking expenses, time lost from taking off from work or other engagements.”

WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — Two billboard companies have refused to display an advertisement by an atheist group to protest the Ark Encounter amusement park in Kentucky.  

Tri-State Freethinkers president Jim Helton tells news outlets the group recently raised $10,000 for a billboard. The proposed design depicts Noah's Ark with people drowning around it and the words, "Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths."

The advertisement has been turned down by billboard companies Lamar and Event Advertising and Promotions LLC.

The Kentucky Derby will be run for the 142nd consecutive year Saturday at Churchill Downs.  Two brothers from Louisiana will try to make history as the first trainer-jockey siblings to capture the Run for the Roses. 

Three time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Kent Desormeaux will be aboard Exaggerator, the early second choice in the 20 horse field, with odds of 8 to 1. Exaggerator is trained by Desormeaux’s brother, Keith.

A battle over a Kentucky tax incentive for a religious theme park featuring Noah's Ark has ended in a win for the big boat. A state tourism board this week approved a sales tax rebate incentive worth about $18 million for the 510-foot long Ark Encounter attraction.               

Kentucky officials in 2014 withdrew the project from the incentive program, which rebates a portion of sales tax collected by a tourist attraction.

State officials at the time said the incentive would be funding "religious indoctrination."

A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis filed against the state for requiring her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples that included her name.

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, arguing it violated her religious beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union sued her on behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses. Davis sued then-Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and then-State Librarian Wayne Onkst, arguing the forms violated her religious beliefs.

Sen. Rand Paul Holds Town Hall Meeting at EKU

Mar 11, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul says he’s not endorsing any of the presidential candidates on any of their positions.  Paul, who dropped out of the GOP presidential race just over a month ago, held a town hall meeting at Eastern Kentucky University Friday. 

“No, I’m going to stay out of it,” he said.  “I’ve sort of said my piece.  I was very clear on what I thought were strong suits, weak suits of all of them.  But I think in the end, the republican nominee will be a lot better than the democratic nominee.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Multiple protesters at the rally on Tuesday in Louisville for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump allege they were pushed by other rally attendees, and some have begun filing police complaints over the incidents.

Kentucky Civil Rights Pioneer Georgia Powers Dies

Jan 30, 2016
Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Powers has died at the age of 92.

Powers was the first African-American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate, where she served for 21 years beginning in 1968. 

Powers was born in Springfield in Washington County, but she grew up in Louisville. She became involved in social justice work during the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1964, Powers helped organize a 10,000-person march on the state Capitol building in Frankfort, demanding a ban on discrimination against African-Americans in restaurants and hotels. She was joined in the march by Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson and folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary.

Noah Day

  During 2015, Kentuckians elected and inaugurated a new governor.

The Commonwealth stood at "ground zero" during a struggle over the implementation of same-sex marriage.

Our nation's response to terrorism and the 2016 presidential race dominated national news.

Monday Is Busiest Mailing Day of Year In Kentucky

Dec 14, 2015

    As usual, this time of year is a busy one for mail carriers of all types.  The contents of packages have undergone a bit of a transformation.

Although Christmas is almost two weeks away, the start of this week signals the heaviest mail day of the year.  For decades it was greeting cards which filled up mail bags and trucks.  David Walton with the U.S. Postal Service in Kentucky says now it’s more often boxes.  “Even though the internet has actually caused a bit of a dent in our letter mail volume, it’s actually caused a package volume to go up,” said Walton.

Officials with the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security say they are seeing an uptick in requests for terrorism related workshops.  Public Information Officer Martin Riggs says there have been three requests for active shooter workshops since the San Bernardino mass shooting last Wednesday that claimed 14 lives.  “We’ve also been in constant contact with our liaison to the department, the federal department for homeland security, and that’s ongoing all the time to keep updated with trends and current trends,” said Riggs.

Workplace Injuries, Illnesses at All-Time Low in Kentucky

Nov 25, 2015

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet announced this week that the state has reached its lowest rate ever for workplace injury and illnesses.

In 2014, Kentucky’s incidence rate was 3.8 per 100 equivalent full-time workers. That’s the lowest rate in Kentucky since 1996, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began recording the data.

Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered nursing homes and other health care providers to run national background checks on all new employees or risk losing their license to operate in the state.

Beshear signed the emergency regulation on Friday. It takes effect on Jan. 1 and will apply to about 1,300 providers, including nursing homes, intermediate care facilities, adult day health care programs and assisted living facilities.

Governor Steve Beshear believes Kentucky should be willing to accept Syrian refugees as long as they are screened. 

Beshear comments came during a stop Monday in Lexington.  Governors from several states across the U.S. are expressing concern about accepting refugees. 

Beshear says the plight of these families deserves attention.   “If folks are truly refugees and not terrorists and truly are just looking for a safe haven, then truly Kentucky ought to step up with everybody else and do the Christian thing and that is to be your brother’s keeper,” said Beshear.

Kentucky Joins Electronic Tolling Consortium

Nov 13, 2015


Kentucky is preparing to move into the electronic tolling age to help pay for the Ohio River Bridges Project near Louisville.  Tolling will begin about a year from now.

The aim is to keep traffic moving along all three crossings. The project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.  Area motorists can purchase a transponder, costing  about $15 , and have tolls automatically taken out of an account.  Those drivers without transponders will have their vehicle license plate photographed and sent a bill in the mail.

Kentucky motorists could soon see more electronic LED billboards along area roads.  The Legislative Transportation Committee on Thursday reviewed an administrative regulation on the matter.  That was the last step before it officially became effective.  It sets a policy for erecting electronic billboards, including provisions for cutting vegetation around the signs.

Kentucky Jobless Rate on the Decline

Oct 15, 2015

Kentucky’s unemployment rate fell in September to five percent, down from 5.2 percent from the month before. 

According to the Office of Employment and Training, the state’s jobless rate hasn’t been that low in 14 years.  State Economist Manoj Shanker says Kentucky has outperformed the U.S. average in 13 of the last 14 months.

There's been much attention over the past week given to Rowan County clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Other related issues could come before state lawmakers.

Mickey Welsh /

The Kentucky Department of Parks will no longer sell merchandise featuring the Confederate battle flag at park gift shops.

Cicadas Sounding Off in Big Numbers this Summer

Jul 21, 2015

Many trees in central Kentucky are alive with the sound of insects.  It's the call of the annual cicada.

The sound of cicadas is hard to miss when outside in many neighborhoods.  University of Kentucky Entomologist Lee Townsend says male cicadas are sounding off and those insect numbers appear to be up this summer.  "It is a mating call and they can get quite loud and they'll start to chorus together and kind of develop a rhythm in their song," said Townsend.

Rowan Co. Clerk Testifies In Same-Sex Marriage Suit

Jul 20, 2015

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a Supreme Court lifted same-sex marriage bans throughout the U.S., testified in court on Monday that her stance is based on religious grounds.

Davis is being sued by four Rowan County couples, represented by the ACLU of Kentucky, who were denied marriage licenses.

Rowan County is one of at least two counties that has refused to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling.