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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Kentucky's Pensions
4:13 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

LaRue County GOP Passes Resolution Urging Lawmakers to Fix Broken Pension System

LaRue County's GOP secretary says the pensions issue affects the financial future of the state.

The LaRue County Republican Party has passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to fund and fix Kentucky’s underfunded pension system, which commands tens of billions of dollars worth of debt. The action is the latest example of growing statewide concern over the issue.

From a mental health nonprofit in Louisville, to a small northern Kentucky city, the LaRue County GOP is the latest in a line of concerned groups actively trying to get Frankfort to do something about the state’s pension system, which has been underfunded by the General Assembly for years, causing liabilities to swell and threatening their abilities to pay public employees.

“An overlooked, underappreciated major financial problem statewide in Kentucky,” said Gil Myers, the LaRue County GOP Secretary. “One that affects every resident, every hard working family, every business and farm, now and in the future.”

The resolution expresses support for a bipartisan task force to examine the issue, which was championed by GOP Floor Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover this year, but died in the Democratic- controlled House of Representatives.

Politics
7:56 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Kentucky Legislative Hearing Becomes Proxy Battle For GOP Gubernatorial Candidates

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters (left) and Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy John Lyons (right).
Credit Jonathan Meador

FRANKFORT—A state legislative hearing Friday on proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions became a flashpoint in Kentucky's Republican gubernatorial primary.

Lawmakers on an energy subcommittee heard testimony from Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters on how the state must respond to regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which seek to lower carbon dioxide emissions in the state by about 17 percent by 2030, with a national target reduction of 30 percent that same year.

Calling climate change "a global issue," Peters' presentation included an overview of centuries' worth of climate science to put the EPA regulations into context for the lawmakers, many of whom have taken a hostile stance toward the federal agency since the proposed regulations were first announced in June.

By 2040, 57 percent of the state's coal-fired power plants will be retired, which echoed other studies that show Kentucky's reliance on coal will diminish in the future, Peters said.

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Environment
4:56 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Lawmakers Briefed Again on Effect of EPA Regulations in Kentucky

Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro
Credit TVA

State lawmakers were once again briefed Friday about the effects  of proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from  Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters told an  energy subcommittee in Frankfort that if the changes cause utility companies to increase their rates high enough, the state’s economy could suffer.

“I think the rate increases that are being talked about right now probably on the side it’s five percent," said Peters. "It could be as much as 25 percent. And if it gets into the 25 percent range, we have done some separate studies that clearly show that has a major impact on our manufacturing industry.”

Under the proposed guidelines, Kentucky will have to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 18 percent by the year 2030.

Military
4:45 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Object To Military Base Reductions at Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell

Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Heather French Henry (right) and Deputy Commissioner Margaret Plattner (left)
Credit Jonathan Meador

FRANKFORT—A group of state lawmakers are calling for the U.S. Department of Defense to abandon its plan to reduce personnel at military bases in Kentucky and across the country.

The reductions would mean a loss of 16,000 positions at Ft. Campbell and 7,605 spots at Ft. Knox, as well a combined income loss of $1.29 billion in Kentucky, according to data from from the U.S. Army's 2020 Force Structure Realignment report, which was provided to the state committee by the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.

The state's Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety wants intends to fight the reductions and voted Thursday to send a resolution to the U.S. Department of Defense.

David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, said the $1.29 billion figure only includes income, thus the total economic effect of the base reductions could be much greater.

"It's definitely fodder for a letter to the Army," Thompson said. "If we think they're going low on their estimates of economic impact, it's up to us to illuminate that to them and say 'hey, it's a much bigger impact than you're indicating.'"

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Capital Punishment in KY
10:41 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Kentucky Latest State to Renew Debate Over Death Penalty

Concerns over the drugs used to administer lethal injections have led to a renewed debate over capital punishment in Kentucky.
Credit istock photos

Allen Ault admits to being a murderer.

But Ault isn’t behind bars, nor was he tried for his “crimes." He’s currently dean of Criminal Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. But as Ault told an interim joint committee on the judiciary earlier this month, he considers his actions as a director of corrections akin to premeditated murder.

“I have murdered five people as an agent of the state,” he said.

Ault said that many of his former colleagues have committed suicide or retreated into drugs to cope with their actions

“Corrections officials are expected to commit the most premeditated murder possible,” he said. “I mean, I had a policy book that thick. We rehearsed it. How premeditated could it be?”

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Education
5:01 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Kentucky's Teacher Retirement System May Become One of The Worst-Funded In The U.S.

New standards could show the Kentucky's teachers' retirement system as only 40 percent funded.

New pension accounting standards could place Kentucky's teachers' retirement system among the worst-funded in the U.S.

The new standard from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, set to go into effect this year, will take a more holistic approach to government pension accounting. As a result, the state will be required to provide a more accurate accounting of its various pensions' liabilities.

As a result, the new standards will place the funding ratio of the KTRS pension to about 40-percent funded, said Chris Tobe, a Democratic candidate for state treasurer and former Kentucky Retirement Systems board member. 

The current unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System stands at 51.9 percent, which works out to about $14 billion in unfunded retirement moneys. Under the new federal standards, that liability will increase to about $22 billion, said KTRS legal counsel Beau Barnes.

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Regional
4:56 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

Kentucky Revenue Receipts Suggest Slow Growth

New data released by the state’s budget office suggest that Kentucky’s General Fund isn’t growing fast enough, and could lead to another budget shortfall.

July receipts show that Kentucky brought in about $706 million in July, a 2.2 increase over last year.

But Jason Bailey, director for the nonpartisan Kentucky Center for Economic Progress, says that the sluggish growth won’t be enough to meet official revenue projections.

“Two-point-two percent growth for July, which is better than zero, but still lower than what we need for the year which is about 3.6 percent to avoid another budget shortfall,” said Bailey.

The data show that while income and sale tax receipts grew by single digits, returns on corporate and property taxes were down 64 and 45 percent, respectively.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently plugged a $90.9 million shortfall in the previous year’s budget that was chiefly caused by a sharp decline in individual income tax receipts.

Politics
4:32 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Audit of Kentucky's LRC Being Reviewed, Findings So Far Kept Under Wraps

The audit of the Legislative Research Commission has yielded a preliminary draft not yet available to the public.
Credit ky.gov

An audit of Kentucky's state government by the National Conference of State Legislatures is currently under “review” by political leaders in the commonwealth, but the report hasn’t been made public.

A spokesman for the NCSL says a preliminary draft of their report was delivered on April 25 to Marcia Seiler, the acting director of the Legislative Research Commission, and to members of state House and Senate leadership.

The LRC authorized a $42,000 audit in December following allegations that it improperly handled claims of sexual harassment by former Rep. John Arnold. Arnold was fined this year by a state ethics board after it found him guilty of the charges.

Recently, the LRC extended its contract with the NCSL through June of 2015, to accommodate the longer review process. The legal counsel for GOP state Senate President Stivers says that will not cost any extra taxpayer money.

Louisville Rep. Tom Riner has been an outspoken opponent of the secrecy of what he calls a culture of harassment in Frankfort. He said he hasn’t seen the audit, but has a theory why it hasn’t been released yet.

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Politics
4:15 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Date Set For Hearing in Lawsuits Against Will Coursey and John Arnold

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

Statehouse staffers who've filed lawsuits against a current state legislator and a former lawmaker want access to a report their attorney said may include allegations of improper behavior by other legislators.

In Sept. 10 hearing, a Franklin Circuit judge will consider motions regarding lawsuits filed against Rep. Will Coursey (D-Symsonia) and former Rep. John Arnold (D-Sturgis).

The Arnold lawsuit stems from allegations that he sexually harassed and retaliated against Legislative Research Commission staffers. The Coursey lawsuit stems from allegations that he retaliated against an LRC employee after she made claims about his behavior.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who represents the plaintiffs in both suits, said the LRC opposes his request for discovery regarding documents in the Arnold case that Clay claims may  include past complaints of sexual harassment involving other lawmakers and LRC staff.

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Health
1:05 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Poll: Kentucky Sees Second Biggest Drop in Number of Those Without Health Insurance

A new poll shows the number of uninsured Kentuckians dropped to 12 percent in July.

The percentage of people without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped at the second biggest rate in the nation.

According to a Gallup poll released this week, the  number of uninsured dropped from over 20 percent in 2013 to about 12 percent as of July 2014, reflecting an eight-and-a-half percent decline since the federal Affordable Care Act took effect. The only other state to experience a sharper decline was Arkansas, whose uninsured rate dropped about 10 percent.

The states rounding out the top five after Kentucky are Delaware, Washington and Colorado.

Gov. Steve Beshear touted the news in a press release, attributing the new data to the state’s implementation of the ACA via kynect, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The poll also reported that the rate of uninsured in 21 states like Kentucky that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA and set up their own  exchanges declined “more significantly” than those states that did not.

As of July, over 520,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in health care through the state exchange, with three-quarters of the newly insured enrolled in Medicaid.

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