Jonathan Meador

Frankfort Bureau Chief

Jonathan is the Frankfort bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.

Meador worked previously as a staff writer for the Nashville Scene and LEO Weekly. Recently, he co-authored, along with R.G. Dunlop of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against State Rep. John Arnold which led to Arnold’s resignation. His work has been honored with several awards from the Louisville Society of Professional Journalists.

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Military
3:28 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Kentucky National Guard: Changes Have Led to Better Handling of Sexual Assault Cases

Members of the Kentucky National Guard during training
Credit Flickr/Creative Commons

Changes to the Kentucky National Guard’s code of justice have enabled military police to better deal with sexual assault occurring within their ranks.

The reforms were pushed through last year’s General Assembly by Rep. Tanya Pullin, a Democrat who co-chairs the Joint Committee on the Military, Veterans Affairs and Public Protection.

National Guard deputy state judge advocate Col. John Knox Mill told the panel this week that the number of victims’ advocates in his organization has increased to 60, and victims are reporting offenses in greater numbers as a result.

“This increase in cases is not because there have been more sexual assaults, but rather that it reflects a greater awareness and trust by victims in the program and the new criminal code," Mill said.

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Regional
6:03 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Kentucky Veterans Affairs Official Pushing for Female Veterans Coordinator

The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to better connect female veterans with services designed for them
Credit U.S. Army

One of the state’s leading veterans advocates is imploring state lawmakers to create a new position to connect the rising number of female veterans across the state with new services designed for them.

There are about 30,000 female veterans in Kentucky. But Margaret Plattner, a retired Lt. Col. with the National Guard and the deputy commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, says just under 2,000 of them have applied for benefits.

She says  that the number of homeless female veterans in Kentucky, about 250, is growing faster than that of their male counterparts, and they suffer from domestic violence trauma in greater numbers than men.

Plattner implored a panel of lawmakers in Frankfort to create a position  for the state to bridge the gap.

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Education
4:01 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Beshear Names Task Force to Prevent Bullying in Kentucky Schools

Gov. Steve Beshear has announced the creation of a new task force to combat bullying in Kentucky’s schools.

Beshear named the 22-member Kentucky Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force Thursday in Frankfort. He cited statistics from the Kentucky Department of Education that found over 15,000 reported incidents of bullying in the 2012-2013 school year, as well as research that links bullying with dropout rates and teen suicides.

“When you have these incidents of bullying contributing to teen suicides and attempted suicides, that’s a huge problem," Beshear said. "So we’re going to take a comprehensive look at this, and hopefully come up with some other avenues and some other tools that will give us a comprehensive set of solutions.”

The task force will examine legislative approaches and school practices, and  the link between  cyber-bullying and teen suicide.

The group will provide a written report of its findings to the governor’s office in November 2015.

Politics
2:36 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Former Ky Senate President Says Richie Farmer Affiliation Won't Hurt Comer's Gubernatorial Chances

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate James Comer
Credit Twitter

Will the enduring popularity of former UK basketball star and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer affect the gubernatorial aspirations of Farmer’s successor, James Comer?

The man who ran for governor on a slate with Farmer says he doesn’t think that the gubernatorial campaign of Farmer’s successor will be affected by backlash over Farmer’s corruption investigation and conviction. 

Former Republican state Senate President David Williams unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2011 with Farmer as his running mate, losing handily to incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear and his running mate, Jerry Abramson.

Williams, now a Circuit Court Judge, made a show of support at the Comer campaign’s kick-off event Tuesday in Tompkinsville.

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Politics
4:03 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Lawyers Ask Judge to Withhold Release of Documents on Sexual Harrassment in State Government

In Frankfort, lawyers for the state are asking a judge not to allow the release of documents that could include information on sexual harassment in Kentucky state government.

Louisville Attorney Thomas Clay represents female state House employees who say in a lawsuit they were sexually harassed  by former  Kentucky lawmaker John Arnold. They also allege they were retaliated against in a separate matter by current  state  Rep. Will Coursey. 

Clay said that in a hearing Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court, Judge Thomas Wingate heard a motion to dismiss the suit altogether. The state argues that because the Legislative Research Commission, which is named as a defendant, did not employ Arnold, the suit is moot.

Clay believes the documents detail instances of sexual harassment beyond the Arnold case, and says that the state is dragging its feet.

“That argument is frivolous because there’s ample federal authority that says the employer has a duty to protect employees from harassing conduct even from non-employees of that employer," Clay said.

Wingate did not decide on any of the motions, and has yet to schedule the next hearing date.

The women are seeking damages from Arnold and the state for embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish and retaliation, as well as attorney’s fees.

Politics
4:25 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Comer Introduces Running Mate In Kentucky Gubernatorial Campaign Kick-Off

James Comer (left) and Sen. Chris McDaniel (right)
Credit Jonathan Meador

Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and his running mate, State Senator Chris McDaniel, are framing their 2015 gubernatorial campaign around both conservative and liberal-leaning agenda items.

Following a campaign kick-off Tuesday before about 2,000 people, Comer and McDaniel discussed their support for right-to-work laws and lower corporate tax rates. They also offered ideas to create an earned income tax credit for working-class families and rescinding tax incentives for businesses that don’t pay employees a living wage.

But Comer told reporters that there’s a difference between his party and the Democrats, which control the state House.

“Democrats think that by simply raising the minimum wage, they’re going to stimulate the economy. The Republicans want to create a business-friendly environment," Comer said.

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Regional
4:16 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Judge Orders Finance Cabinet to Release Tax Assessments

For the first time, a Frankfort judge is forcing the state to release information on how it assesses taxes on individuals and businesses.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd wrote in an Aug. 26 opinion that the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet must release 700 tax assessments to discern “whether the Department has been fair and consistent or whether it has displayed political favoritism to some taxpayers over others."

The cabinet fought the suit, which was originally brought by Louisville tax attorney Mark Sommer in 2012, claiming the assessments are exempt from state open records laws due to taxpayer privacy concerns. But Sommer says that the ruling will finally shed light on how the state interprets its often ambiguous tax laws.

“I would hope that, for the taxpaying public, more information as to how the state interprets and enforces tax laws, everything else being equal, is better,” said Sommer. “And so with the release of these rulings, we think that, among other things, taxpayer compliance may increase.”

A request for comment from the finance cabinet was not immediately returned.

Politics
8:18 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Kentucky House Democrats Have Large Fundraising Lead

The Kentucky state capitol building in Frankfort
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky House Democrats have a wide margin in fundraising as they seek to defend their chamber from a Republican takeover bid this November.

The Kentucky Democratic House Caucus Campaign Committee has about $286,000 in cash on hand—much more than the House GOP's $86,000, according to data from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

The money will be crucial to both parties: for Democrats, to maintain a narrow eight-seat majority in the legislature’s lower chamber; for Republicans, to target vulnerable districts in an attempt to end nearly a century of Democratic House control.

But the money raised and spent by those committees on this fall’s House races isn’t the end-all, be-all in fundraising. Thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings, several outside groups are targeting the Kentucky House, many of them aligned with Republican interests.

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Politics
2:30 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Kentucky GOP Unveils "Handshake with Kentucky" Plan

Credit RPK of Kentucky

The Republican Party of Kentucky has a wish-list of legislative priorities ready to go if the State House were to flip and come under Republican control following this fall's elections.

The party unveiled its plan, dubbed  "Handshake with Kentucky," on Tuesday. It consists of legislative priorities for the state GOP, pending potential victories come Election Day. Currently, Democrats maintain a narrow eight-seat margin in the state's lower chamber.

In a statement, House GOP Floor Leader lambasted House Democrats over poor leadership.

“For far too long, the majority leadership of the House of Representatives has made empty promises,” Hoover said in a statement. “Democrats in Frankfort have failed to achieve meaningful results on behalf of families and local businesses, and the current leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered real opportunities while surrounding states prosper."

The plan will include:

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Regional
5:16 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Talks Between 7 Counties, Lawmakers Come Up Short

Rep. Brent Yonts
Credit Kentucky LRC

An attempt at mediation between state lawmakers and a Louisville mental health nonprofit over its bankruptcy has yielded little progress. Earlier this month, member of Seven Counties Services and a handful of state lawmakers met to discuss what, if any, deal could be reached over the nonprofit’s bankruptcy filing.

Under state law, Seven Counties is required to pay a larger share into its employees’ pensions than other types of pensions. The rising costs of those contributions, it claims, forced it into bankruptcy, and a federal judge ruled that it would not have to pay for its unfunded pension liabilities, estimated at about $90 million.

Greenville State Rep. Brent Yonts is part of an ad-hoc group of lawmakers trying to reach a deal Seven Counties.

“They at that moment in time did not come to the table with anything to offer,” said Yonts.  “And I explained my viewpoint that in order to resolve this issue in the context of the bankruptcy, there had to be something that was negotiable other than saying ‘we can’t do anything.’”

Lawmakers are eager to reach a deal, however, because if the appeal rules in Seven Counties’ favor just like the lower court’s decision, it could set a precedent for similar quasi-governmental agencies, potentially leaving the state holding a $2.4 billion debt in unpaid liabilities should those agencies also jump the sinking ship.

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