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
3:56 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Beshear Says Mountain Parkway Expansion Still Possible, Despite Highway Trust Fund Problems

The Mountain Parkway runs from I-64, east of Winchester, southeast to a junction with U.S. Route 460 near Salyersville.
Credit Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Gov. Steve Beshear says that despite a lagging federal response to fixing the insolvent Federal Highway Trust Fund, the state will still pursue an expansion of Eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway.

The governor says he hopes that the U.S. Senate will pass legislation passed by the House that will patch up the rapidly depleting fund through March.

“The Mountain Parkway project will continue as originally passed by the legislature in our transportation budget, and at least at this point, it’s not going to be affected adversely by any action or lack of action," Beshear said.

But the Mountain Parkway is slated to be largely paid for with federal highway reimbursement funds, and is a key component of the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region,” or SOAR, initiative championed by Beshear to revitalize the Eastern Kentucky economy.

The highway trust fund has been used to help states pay for road projects since the 1950s by collecting a gas tax, but it has spent more than it has taken in for nearly 20 years.

Regional
5:23 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

$1.3 Billion In State Contracts Not Unusual, Says Lawmaker

State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello
Credit Kentucky LRC

Amid a $91 million state revenue shortfall, the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract  Review Committee approved $1.3 billion worth of contracts this month. Outgoing Republican Sen. Sara Beth Gregory is a co-chair of the committee. She says the high dollar figure comes at the beginning of a new fiscal year, when  large numbers of contracts are typically renewed -- about 1,700 contracts in July alone.

But Gregory says that there are still contracts that creep into the committee that warrant more scrutiny from the public and the media.

 “It is somewhat surprising how much is overseen by this committee and how much comes before this committee or has the potential to come before this committee with relatively little press coverage,” said Gregory.

Gregory  says  the committee’s decisions can be overruled by the secretary of the finance cabinet, and that the best they can do is try to draw attention to contracts that award more money than they should.

The Legislative Ethics Commission reports that despite a reduction in contracts for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the amount swelled to $3.4 billion from 2007 to 2011.

Regional
5:46 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Alltech Expanding To Pikeville Hoping to Play Role In Revitalizing E. Kentucky

Alltech is investing about $24 million in a new Eastern Kentucky facility to help shore up economic development in the area.

Touted by Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, the development will expand Alltech’s distillery operations on a 380-acre reclaimed surface mine, and will grow to include aquaculture fish farms and an  egg laying operation.

Deirdre Lyons is director of corporate image for Alltech. She says Eastern Kentucky brings back memories  of her native homeland.

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Regional
4:55 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Anti-Smoking Campaign Gears Up for 2015 Push

Anti-smoking advocates are gearing up for another push to pass a statewide smoking ban with a statewide tour leading up to August’s Fancy Farm political picnic.

The Smoke-Free Coalition announced that it will make several stops across Kentucky to rally supporters and engage legislators to help pass a statewide smoking ban during the 2015 General Assembly.

A previous effort sponsored by Lexington Democrat Rep. Susan Westrom died in the House amid speculation that tobacco lobbying and election year concerns contributed to its demise.

Kentucky is one of 26 states that lacks a statewide smoking ban, which polls show has a plurality of support in the state.

The tour begins July 28 in Ashland and features stops in Campbellsville and Bowling Green July 31 and Owensboro Aug. 1.

Regional
6:13 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Beshear Cuts Kentucky Budget to Balance $90.9-Million Shortfall

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear issued a pair of executive orders this week reducing state spending levels to plug a $90.9-million hole in Kentucky's budget.

The Office of the State Budget Director announced the shortfall last week, which is due largely to an unexpected $63-million decline in income related to capital gains. 

Beshear's cuts cover the $90.9-million gap.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Beshear said the state was "somewhat limited" in its approach to filling the budget hole.

“But as in previous reductions, two goals guided our decisions—to take steps to make government as efficient and as lean as possible, and to protect as best we can the core services that offer help and hope to our people and represent important long-term investments in Kentucky’s future: education, health care and public safety," Beshear said in the released statement.

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Regional
6:56 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Letcher County Farmer's Market Designated USDA “Summer Feeding” Site, Becoming First in State

An Eastern Kentucky farmer’s market has become the first in the state to be  designated a “Summer Feeding Site” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of a joint effort led by the Community Farm Alliance, the program will provide farm-to-table meals free of charge to children under the age of 18  during summer break.

The program also aims to shore up business among local farmers by providing them with a steady source of income, and to improve community health.

According to U.S. Census data, about a quarter of Letcher County’s 23,600 residents live below the federal poverty line.

The CFA will celebrate the announcement July 26.

Regional
6:42 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Kentucky Retirement Systems Pension Seeks to Dismiss Ft. Wright Lawsuit

The troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems pension is firing back at a lawsuit filed by a small Northern Kentucky town over what it alleges are “high risk investments” made by KRS.

In June, the city of Ft. Wright -- population 5,700 -- filed a civil suit against KRS over risky investments into Wall Street hedge funds with public money, seeking $50 million to cover the losses and to divorce its city and county employees from the state system.

KRS fired back with a motion last week claiming that the city lacks the proper legal standing to do so, and is asking Kenton Circuit Court to dismiss the claim.

Specifically, KRS argues that the types of alternative investments it makes into hedge funds are allowed by state law, and that circuit court is an improper venue for the suit because it is an administrative agency.

KRS’ motion will be heard Monday in Kenton Circuit Court.

Politics
3:28 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Laws Impacting Everything From Kudzu to Lobbyists Become Official This Week in Kentucky

Recently passed Kentucky laws go into effect July 15, 2014.
Credit ky.gov

A bevy of new state laws passed this year by the Kentucky General Assembly is going into effect this week. The legislation ranges from dealing with invasive plant species to tougher ethics laws governing the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists.

The state constitution stipulates that laws without an “emergency” clause go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of a legislative session. Since the last day was April 15, many new laws are going into effect this week.

Senate Bill 170 grants the state expanded powers to combat invasive plant species like kudzu, which can quickly overtake other plants by drowning them in shade.

Similarly, House Bill 28 will make it tougher for lobbyists to invade the decision-making process in Frankfort by restrict their ability to pay for a legislator’s expenses.

Other laws taking effect this week include a streamlined concealed carry permitting process for victims of domestic violence; expanded prescription-writing authority for registered nurses; leniency on lesser crimes for victims of human trafficking; and permitting by-the-drink alcohol sales at state parks, if  nearby residents approve it.

Politics
8:17 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Bill Battling Heroin May Have New Life in 2015 Kentucky Legislature

Parts of Kentucky have seen a surge in heroin abuse in recent years.

A renewed effort to pass legislation to combat Kentucky’s heroin epidemic is gaining traction in the state legislature.

The chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are in talks to revive the bill, championed by outgoing Republican Sen. Katie Stine, whose Northern Kentucky district has been hit especially hard by heroin abuse. 

Stine’s bill died in the final moments of the 2014 session over constitutional concerns about its homicide provision, which would have charged dealers for murder in the event of an overdose, and GOP dissension over the bill’s needle exchange program.

“We are discussing ways to curb the addiction, get it off our streets; to deal more harshly with those whom are dealing in the misery; and to save lives, ultimately,” said Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “And that’s what we as public servants need to be doing.”

Tilley says all options -- including the homicide provision -- are still on the table, and that several bills will likely take shape soon.

Gov. Steve Beshear remains undecided on whether he’ll call a special legislative session to revisit the issue.

Health
5:21 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Ways to Help Veterans Suffering from PTSD, Including Medical Marijuana

One Kentucky lawmaker predicts that medical marijuana legalization is inevitable in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky lawmakers have been discussing the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, and how sexual assault in the military plays a factor.

Dr. Mary Sweeney was among a team of physicians from the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville who recently testified before a joint Committee on the Military, Veterans Affairs and Public Safety about PTSD treatment efforts.

“Fifty percent of people who experience a rape go on to get PTSD. The numbers are lower for combat. Vietnam veterans, probably about 30 percent at some point in their life. Gulf War  veterans, perhaps 10 percent. The numbers are still out in the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”

Many veterans have lobbied Frankfort in support of medical marijuana as a treatment for their symptoms.

About 18,500 veterans in Kentucky suffer from PTSD. Nationwide, that number is 350,000.

Medical Marijuana for Veterans?

Kentucky lawmakers also heard testimony from those advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana as a way for veterans to cope with the impact of PTSD and physical ailments related to their military service.

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