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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Politics
5:40 pm
Sat April 19, 2014

2014 General Assembly Session in Review: Who Won? Who Lost?

U.S. Senator Rand Paul's appearance in Frankfort couldn't help push through a bill that would've restored voting rights for thousands of felons
Credit Kentucky LRC

By law, the only piece of legislation that the 2014  Kentucky General Assembly had to pass was a two-year state budget.

All else, as Will Rogers put it, is applesauce.

And with a session that began with a bang and ended with a whimper, it's what happened in between that House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers should be "proud" of.

Specifically, that they passed a compromised version of Gov. Steve Beshear's $20.3 billion state budget. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, however, took to the editorial page of The Courier-Journal to vent about what he dubbed a "lackluster" session.

But the truth probably lies somewhere between the extremes of "proud" and "lackluster."

Many political observers noted a reluctance among lawmakers to tackle controversial measures—chief among them tax reform—because of the impending November elections that will prove as a test for House Democrats to retain their slim eight-seat majority.

Here's a look at the winners, losers and downright lost causes of the 2014 General Assembly.

WINNERS

The coal industry—A slate of coal-friendly bills easily cleared the legislature, including one that allows coal-fired power plants in the state to regulate their own carbon emission standards at lower-than-federal-levels. Lawmakers also approved a bill that provides a new round of tax incentives for coal and coal-related industries to subsidize their purchase of new equipment.

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Politics
5:23 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Arnold Ethics Case Still Open

The ethics trial against former Kentucky legislator John Arnold may continue. Because the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission did not consider a motion to dismiss the case against the Sturgis Democrat in a hearing last week, the case may go forward.

The panel voted 4-1 last week to find Arnold guilty of ethics violations stemming from charges that he sexually harassed female state House staffers. Because nearly half of its members were absent for the hearing, and five votes were required for a motion to pass, Arnold was let off.

The commission will consider the issue at its next meeting on May 7th.

Regional
5:40 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Lawmaker Calls For Ethics Committee Reform If Special Session is Called

State Rep. Joni Jenkins
Credit Kentucky LRC

A Kentucky Representative says if a special legislative session is called for later this year, ethics reform should be on the agenda.

During the session, Rep. Joni Jenkins filed an amendment to an unrelated bill that would reconfigure the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, which has come under fire after it found former lawmaker John Arnold not guilty of sexual harassment charges. But the Senate didn’t take up that bill.

Jenkins, a Louisville Democrat, is disappointed, but she plans to take up the issue as a bill next year, or, if Gov. Steve Beshear calls for a special session, she’ll advocate to have it included on the agenda. 

“You know, you hate to spend all that money.  I would hope that perhaps if he called a special session on some other issues that they’re talking about, perhaps he would think about including this,” said Jenkins.

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Regional
8:13 am
Wed April 16, 2014

After Late Night, Lawmakers Wrap Up Legislative Session

Greg Stumbo (left) and Jeff Hoover earlier in the 2014 General Assembly Session
Credit Kentucky LRC

This year's Kentucky legislative session is now over. Though many bills failed due to lack of compromise or attention, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers did what was expected of them from taxpayers by passing a two-year state budget.

But that chamber’s highest ranking Republican, Jeff Hoover, decried tactics by Democrats to amend bills at the last minute without giving Republicans enough time to study them. Lawmakers debated new amendments and legislative procedure right until the stroke of midnight.

Among the failed bills was a measure that would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and legislation that would restore voting rights for felons.

Regional
5:24 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Statehouse Staffers Accuse Rep. Gooch Of Inappropriate Behavior on Alabama Trip

State Rep. Jim Gooch
Credit Kentucky LRC

The two female statehouse employees who previously accused Kentucky Rep. John Arnold of sexually harassing them say another Democratic lawmaker acted inappropriately, this time on an out-of-state trip conducting official legislative business.

Legislative Research Commission employees Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner allege that Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, threw a pair of women's underwear onto a dining table at a restaurant during the Southern Legislative Conference held in Mobile, Alabama last year. 

In an interview with Kentucky Public Radio, Gooch didn't deny the allegations, and admitted to possibly brandishing a woman's "personal item" in front of LRC employees during a meal. 

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Politics
11:32 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Women Accusing Arnold of Sexual Harrassment Ask Commission to Reconsider Ethics Ruling

Former Union County Rep. John Arnold
Credit Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

Update 12:49 p.m.
(From Associated Press report) One dissenting vote last week spared former State Rep. John Arnold from any disciplinary action stemming from multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. Now, lawmakers have taken action to try to prevent that from happening again.  

 The House voted Monday to change the rules for the ethics committee to require commission members to attend at least half of the meetings every year. The rules changes also gave the committee jurisdiction over former lawmakers.  The one commission member who voted not to punish Arnold last week says he did so because he felt the commission didn’t have the power to punish lawmakers who’d already resigned. 

Original Post

Two women who made formal sexual harassment complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold have filed a motion with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission asking it to reconsider its ruling that cleared Arnold of ethics charges.

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Regional
2:47 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Ethics Bill Containing Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training For Lawmakers Clears Legislature

An amendment to the ethics bill made by Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville (right) would require sexual harassment training for lawmakers
Credit Kentucky LRC

Legislation that would make sexual harassment training mandatory for state lawmakers is on its way to the governor’s desk.

When formal ethics charges were filed against former Rep. John Arnold accusing him of sexually harassing three women working in the state legislature, lawmakers were up in arms about addressing the issue of workplace harassment in the Capitol.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission found Arnold not guilty of the harassment charges this week, prompting critics to question if anything could be done.

But an amended bill filed by Greenville Rep. Brent Yonts would address those issues by making sexual harassment training mandatory for state lawmakers. Currently, lawmakers do not have to take such training.

The bill currently awaits Gov. Steve Beshear’s signature.

Politics
11:23 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Ethics Trial of Former Kentucky Rep. John Arnold Set for Tuesday

Former Kentucky state Rep. John Arnold has been accused of sexually harassing female staffers.
Credit Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

The ethics trial involving a former Union County lawmaker accused of sexually harassing female state employees will begin Tuesday. 

Three of the women who brought formal ethics complaints against former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, are expected to testify at Tuesday’s adjudicatory hearing that will determine whether or not Arnold violated state ethics laws. 

Thomas Clay is an attorney for the women, and he expects the proceedings to go by the numbers. 

“Well I think it’s going to be a typical administrative hearing," the attorney said. "I think they’ll call witnesses. They’ll be subject to direct examination and cross examination, and then the commission will deliberate and make a decision, and hopefully the process will play out.” 

Calls to Arnold’s Bowling Green attorney, Steve Downey, were not returned. Downey has informed Kentucky Public Radio in the past that Arnold will likely not appear at any hearing due to what he says are Arnold’s declining mental and physical health. 

Arnold has denied the charges.

Education
2:45 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

General Counsel: New State Budget Doesn't Fix Pension Woes for Kentucky Teachers

The $20 billion budget passed by Kentucky lawmakers underfunds teachers’ pensions, giving the system hundreds of millions of dollars less than requested to keep it afloat.

Public school teachers in Kentucky don’t get Social Security benefits. They can’t even claim their spouses’ either. So that makes their pensions all the more important. 

But the already tight-as-a-snare-drum budget passed by lawmakers continues to underfund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System by about half the amount they need to bring the system -- which is currently about $13 billion short -- into the black.

Beau Barnes is general counsel for the KTRS. He says that changes in federal accounting laws will only compound the problem.

“The sooner the funding issue can be addressed, the better, because the longer it takes, the more difficult it’s going to be to address because the funding status will continue to decline,” said Barnes.  “The GASB accounting measure of unfunded liability would have the pension fund running out of money in about 2036.”

Barnes says he’s optimistic the situation won’t come to that, and is looking forward to working with the governor and the legislature to address a problem to which, so far, they’ve given little more than lip service.

Kentucky Budget
8:01 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Money for Rupp Renovation Included in Kentucky Budget Approved by Lawmakers

Rupp Arena in Lexington
Credit UK Athletics

The budget Kenutcky lawmakers approved this week will give $1.5 million to a costly renovation of the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.

The money would be used to finance architects' and engineering fees and other planning costs for the $310 million project.

Republican lawmakers got few answers from Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who lobbied House and Senate leadership for $65 million for the project during marathon budget talks held in Frankfort over the weekend.

Gray said the project would create thousands of jobs in Lexington, and failing to provide the amount would “drive a stake through the heart of the project.”

Details of the project remain scarce, as Gray and other officials are under a verbal non-disclosure agreement with the university.

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