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
9:01 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Clark: Don't Give up Expanded Gambling Prospects Yet

Kentucky lawmakers are again taking up the contentious issue of expanded gambling this legislative session.

A state lawmaker from Louisville says the issue of expanded gaming isn’t dead yet.

Rep. Larry Clark says that he met with representatives from five Kentucky racetracks and the head of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to allay concerns of the thoroughbred industry over a bill he has filed that would expand gaming in the commonwealth.

“We discussed a lot of issue that were on the table, and we resolved a lot of ‘em," the Jefferson County Democrat said. "They’re gonna be back with us Friday on some issues that we think are critical to passing a constitutional amendment and passing gaming but it was very productive today, one of the better meetings we’ve had in quite a few years.”

A similar bill filed in the Senate has been met with reluctance by Republican leadership in that chamber.

Health
4:19 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Kentucky Senate Committee OKs Bill Allowing Research on Cannabis Oil

Rita Wooten holds up her smartphone and plays a video: her three-year-old son, Eli, clad in a diaper, writhes on a couch, his limbs twitching, his lips a pale shade of blue.

Eli has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, or LGS, a rare neurological disorder that causes chronic seizures.Wooton says her son has suffered thousands of them, causing extensive brain damage.

Wooton testified before the Senate Health & Welfare Committee Wednesday in support of a measure filed by Sen. Julie Denton that would permit state universities to research and ultimately prescribe the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant that is believed to successfully treat certain neurological disorders.

“Our neurologist told us two weeks ago..she said ‘Rita, try this CBD oil and see if it’ll help’. I said we can’t because it’s not legal in our state. I said we’re looking at going to Colorado. We shouldn’t have to leave our homes and our families and our jobs to seek treatment for him.”

The bill passed the committee by a 9-1 vote.

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Health
7:53 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Stumbo: Many Lawmakers Still Uncertain About Statewide Smoking Ban

Several Kentucky cities and towns have enacted local smoking bans. Supporters are hoping the Kentucky legislature will pass a statewide ban.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says that mustering legislative support for a bill that would ban smoking in private businesses and public areas is “an uphill battle.”

Stumbo says that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, has only a handful of Republican  votes and about 30 Democratic votes.

He says despite his support, some lawmakers are apprehensive about the ban.

“The people in Prestonsburg already have it, for example. If I vote for it, the people out in the county, who might object to it, didn’t get that same local option treatment that the city people, that the folks in the city did. And we’re running into a lot of that.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear confirmed that he is working to persuade lawmakers individually to drum up support for the bill, which has languished in the House for nearly three weeks without a vote.

Over 30 localities across the state currently prohibit smoking in public areas and in some private businesses.

Politics
1:27 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Districts of Innovation Waiver Bill Gaining Steam in Kentucky General Assembly

A bill that would modify student assessments in Kentucky public schools has unanimously cleared a House committee.

The measure would permit schools under the Kentucky Department of Education’s districts of innovation to implement new testing methods to assess student performance.

Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Donna Hargens testified before the House Education Committee Tuesday, saying that alternative assessments won’t be any less rigorous than current ones.

“I want you all to know that this will require more from the districts of innovation including additional development for teachers, more time to prepare assessments, more time to conduct authentic performance assessments, and require students to demonstrate mastery," explained Hargens.

The bill, filed by Louisville Rep. Larry Clark, would permit those schools to apply for waivers of current testing methods set forth by the innovation plan as long as they meet college and career-readiness requirements for students.

Seven school districts across the state participate in the plan, which was passed in 2012 by the General Assembly to give educators greater flexibility in turning around struggling schools.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

Regional
5:15 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Arnold Ethics Trial Delayed, Pending Medical Diagnosis

Former State Rep. John Arnold
Credit Jonathan Meador

A state ethics trial involving former Rep. John Arnold has been delayed again.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission ordered that the sexual harassment trial against Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, be postponed.

Arnold’s lawyer, Bowling Green attorney Steve Downey, says that he is still awaiting diagnoses from several doctors on whether Arnold, who may have suffered a series of minor strokes, is mentally competent to stand trial.

“His mental and cognitive status is very pertinent to the charges against him. Despite his doctors’ best efforts, a definitive diagnosis has not been reached,” said Downey.  “Without this proof, this matter is not ready for a hearing, and John’s health is so poor that it is doubtful he will participate in that hearing.”

Arnold was accused of sexual assault and harassment last August by female employees of the state Legislative Research Commission.

He has denied the charges.

Thomas Clay, the Louisville attorney representing Arnold’s accusers, calls the continuance a delay tactic, and says  the women are cynical about the state’s ability to investigate the matter.

The ethics commission is expected to announce a new hearing date in the next few days.

Health
3:26 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Beshear Hoping to Improve Health Outcomes in State Known for Sickness

Gov. Steve Beshear has announced a new initiative aimed at improving Kentucky’s health outcomes over the next five years.

‘KyHealthNow’ (Kentucky Health Now) will seek to improve Kentuckians’ health in the areas of smoking, obesity, cancer, heart disease and more by 10 percent.

Beshear says the initiative will piggyback off of the success of the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, which has enrolled over 240,000 people across the commonwealth.

“We want to reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than five percent," the Governor said Thursday. "The link between access to affordable health care and good health is clear, it’s direct, it’s indisputable.”

Beshear says  the initiative will  coordinate executive and legislative actions, as well as public private partnerships.

Kentucky ranks among the worst states for rates of smoking, cancer deaths and heart attacks.

Politics
4:59 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Sen. Paul Backs Measure Restoring Voting Rights for Some Felons in Kentucky

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Updated: 5:26 p.m.

The bill cleared the full Senate late Wednesday by a 34-4 vote. It now goes back to the House for reconciliation.  The House bill did not include a five-year waiting period, while the Senate version did.

Original Post

U.S. Senator Rand Paul has thrown his support behind a state bill that would restore the voting rights of some felons.

Paul spoke before the Kentucky Senate State and Local Government Committee Wednesday. He reminded the panel of the Republican Party’s history of support for civil rights. And he noted the higher incarceration rates of African-Americans in Kentucky, where a fifth of black adults cannot vote due to a felony record.

“There was a time in our society where there were intentional incarcerations based on race," the Bowling Green Republican said. "I don’t think it’s intentional, but there … has become a racial outcome on who’s incarcerated in our country, and I think that’s something that has to be addressed here. Because not only is the incarceration, I think, unfair, then they get out and the voting rights are impaired.”

A bill restoring voting rights for certain felons then cleared the committee by a unanimous vote. But it was amended to include mandatory five-year waiting period and an exemption for those with multiple offenses.

Politics
7:58 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Stumbo Backs Bill Banning Workplace Discrimination for Groups Including LGBT Community

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Credit Kentucky LRC

House Speaker Greg Stumbo has cosponsored a bill that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

Stumbo is one of 18 cosponsors backing the proposed legislation filed by Louisville Rep. Mary Lou Marzian.

The House Speaker says that his support for fairness coincides with his duty to uphold the constitution.

“I’ve never stood by and allowed people’s rights to be trampled in that manner. I don’t believe in it. I believe the constitution is exactly what it is: It requires that everybody be treated the same way regardless of your creed, color, national origin or sexual preference.”

Stumbo says that he thinks there’s increased support in his chamber for the bill compared to previous years.

Regional
12:21 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Rep. Carney Thanks Responders After Adair County Natural Gas Explosion

John "Bam" Carney (right) visits with Rep. Ryan Quarles in August, 2013.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky State Rep. Bam Carney is praising  the actions of emergency first responders for their handling of a natural gas explosion in Adair County that injured two people.

In a speech delivered on the House floor, Carney thanked firefighters and EMT workers for their efforts in responding to a Columbia Gulf gas line explosion that rocked the town of Knifely , which is in Carney’s district.

“One home that was damaged was actually my aunt’s, so it’s right there, and you know, when it hits family -- it’s always important to us but when it hits family it’s a little different. But I want to publicly thank all those folks who, by all accounts, have done an outstanding job: Columbia Gulf, first responders,” said Carney.  “You know, again, sometimes we take all those folks for granted 'til when we need them, so again I want to publicly thank them for what they’re doing in my community.”

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the explosion.

Politics
8:35 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Stumbo Supports Judge's Opinion on Kentucky and Same-Sex Marriage

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (left) spoke to Rep. Jeff Hoover during the 2014 General Assembly.
Credit Kentucky LRC

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he supports a federal judge's opinion that requires Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Floyd County Democrat doesn't think it will affect House elections this fall, where Democrats will defend a narrow 8-seat majority over Republicans.

“Whether you like it or not, that’s what the law says. Whether you like it or not, everybody’s rights need to be recognized by the constitution in equal manner. And that’s what the court found and that’s the state of the law," Stumbo said.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway says he is awaiting a final order in the case before he issues an opinion on the ruling or decides whether to appeal.

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