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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Environment
4:30 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

"Agenda 21" Bill Headed to Full Kentucky Senate

Sen. John Schikel (R-Union)
Credit Kentucky LRC

A bill aimed at preventing a proposal by the United Nations to regulate environmental issues has cleared a Kentucky Senate committee.

Senate Bill 31, filed by Northern Kentucky Sen. John Schikel, seeks to prevent the state from adopting any environmental provisions set forth by a U.N. emissions-reduction plan known as “Agenda 21.”

The plan is renowned in conspiracy circles as a scheme by the world governing body to usurp private property, but Schickel says his bill is far from conspiracy theory.

“I don’t look at it as a threat, but, we believe, and I believe, and many of my constituents believe that United States officials, Kentucky officials and local officials should be making our environmental laws and making those decisions and not international organizations," Schikel said.

The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee.

Politics
8:24 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Should the Governor's Office Be Stripped of Some of its Power? Kentucky Senate GOP Thinks So

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would amend the state constitution and remove the governor's ability to implement regulations.

The measure passed by a contentious 24-14 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans support the bill because they say it would give them the authority to create and repeal regulations. That power currently resides within the governor’s office.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer says the legislature should be able to review regulations like the Affordable Care Act and Common Core school standards.

“I don’t ever remember voting on Common Core standards here," Thayer said. "When we passed Senate Bill 1 in 2009, the main crux of it was eliminating the CATS tests and replacing it with standardized testing, and I believe that intent has been perverted somewhat with the implementation of these Common Core standards.”

Democrats call the measure unconstitutional, and say it would give too much power to the legislature.

The bill now heads to the House, which has a Democratic majority.

Politics
6:17 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Statewide Smoking Ban Moving in Kentucky Legislature

A Kentucky House committee has approved a ban on indoor smoking in public places and private businesses across the commonwealth.

The House Health & Welfare Committee voted 10-3. It would provide an exemption for open spaces, and will also apply to e-cigarettes.

Sponsor Susan Westrom says the ban is needed to improve the health of all Kentuckians regardless if they smoke, and will affect a variety of workplaces.

“What they haven’t considered is, we’re not just talking about restaurants and bars. We’re talking about people who work in manufacturing companies, who work in law practices, who work in insurance companies. It’s amazing, the different types of places people work. It’s not just restaurants and bars.”

Dissenting Republicans questioned what the ban would mean for personal freedoms.

The bill now heads to a floor debate in the House.

Senator Julie Denton, who testified in support of the bill, has filed companion legislation in the Senate.

Politics
5:15 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Minimum Wage Increase Clears Kentucky House

After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, the Kentucky House passed a bill Thursday afternoon that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.

The issue drew impassioned speeches from supporting lawmakers. 

The debate’s most incendiary comments came from Rep. Jim Wayne.  The characteristically soft-spoken Louisville lawmaker criticized what he called an economic caste system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

“The free market system will guarantee everyone a quality job. Not so; a big lie," argued Wayne.  "The only way capitalism works if for government to step in and set the rules. Now you don’t wanna hear that, but it’s the truth. And that’s what the New Deal was all about.”

Opponents said the higher wage would force some employers to cut jobs. They said it would add costs for school districts and local governments to pay low-wage employees.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Politics/Health
8:11 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Kentucky Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Bill Mandating Ultrasound Before Abortion

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound.

The measure passed 33-5 Wednesday with wide Republican support. This is the tenth year the bill has cleared the Senate. All previous efforts have gone on to die in the Democratically-controlled House.

The bill does not provide an exemption for victims of rape. Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield acknowledges that transvaginal ultrasounds could be traumatic for rape victims.

“I’m not compelling that particular use, and I think that probably would be traumatic and I don’t know, I don’t presume to know what a woman would be thinking in that position, but I think it probably would be," the Hopkinsville Republican said. "They oughta have the option of which ultrasound. That’s why I didn’t write it so it’d be compelled.”

Dissenters say the bill is degrading to women, and  similar laws in other states are costing taxpayers money as a result of legal challenges.

Westerfield said he had not had a chance to review those cases.

Regional
5:43 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

House Floor Leader Calls For Private Meetings on Tax Reform

Members of the Kentucky House convene late last month to discuss procedural rules
Credit Kentucky LRC

Republican Kentucky House Floor Leader Jeff Hoover says it's important that a committee of lawmakers work on tax reform in private, without public access to the meetings.

When Gov. Steve Beshear unveiled his $210 million tax reform plan this week, he said he wanted lawmakers to get to work on a compromise.

Hoover wants to create a committee of House and Senate leadership to do just that, but behind closed doors and not subject to open meetings laws.

“I do not think it sacrifices transparency. What I think it does is quickens the process, and then when you get the framework established, then you come back in committee and it’s totally open and totally transparent,” said Hoover.

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Education
5:38 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Student Fee to Create Main Source of Funding For Upgrades To KCTCS Campuses

Dr. Michael McCall
Credit KCTCS

Kentucky's community colleges will use new tuition fees to pay for improvements to campuses across the commonwealth.

The sixteen colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System will take on about $200 million in bonds. System President Michael McCall says three-fourths of those bonds will be paid for by a four dollar per credit hour charge that will be phased in this fall, and will increase to eight dollars per credit hour in the future.

“The proposed agency fund will come from a capital fee that will be assessed to students, students who will be coming in,” said McCall. “We plan to really phase this in. The total amount that will be required for this would be eight dollars per credit hour per student.”

McCall acknowledges that KCTCS will also be raising tuition this fall, but could not say by how much.

About 92,000 students are enrolled in the system's colleges.

Politics
1:45 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Kentucky's Health Exchange Reaches Milestone

Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, has topped 200,000 enrollees, according to the Governor’s Office.

New data says an average 1,600 people are signing up each day.

As of Friday, three fourths of those who have signed up have enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program. And the remaining quarter have enrolled in new private plans.

Those without insurance have until the end of March to sign up for coverage or face tax penalties.

Politics/Health
8:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Bill Requiring Women to Undergo Ultrasound Before Abortion Passes Kentucky Committee

A Kentucky Senate committee has passed a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory ultrasound procedure.

Senate Bill 8 is the latest anti-abortion measure to clear the panel.

Lawmakers heard testimony from Derrick Selznick, who is director of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Selznick opposes the bill on the grounds that it’s demeaning to women.

“So for the majority of women that this will effect in Kentucky, there will have to have [sic] a vaginal ultrasound," Selznick said. "And the courts have ruled that the only way a woman can dissent, even though it is written into the law that they can avert their eyes, the only way she can can fulfill that is to wear blinders and noise cancelling headphones. And if that isn’t degrading, I don’t know what is.”

Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield says the measure is designed to protect innocent life.

Another anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 3, passed in that chamber last week.

Economy
3:19 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Kentucky Economic Group Says Minimum Wage Boost Would Have Wide-Reaching Positive Impacts

Kentucky's minimum wage currently stands at $7.25 an hour.

An economic think-tank says a raise in the minimum wage would benefit reduce child poverty and help about a quarter of Kentucky workers.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says a $10.10 an hour minimum wage would lead to a boost in consumer spending. That, they say, would spur job creation, and allow low-income families to make ends meet.

Opponents argue higher wages would force layoffs or cause businesses to raise prices. But center director Jason Bailey says it would actually keep employees in what are currently lower-paying jobs. That cuts the costs businesses pay to hire and train new workers.

“The lack of consumer spending is a big impediment to additional hiring; that additional money in people’s pockets, low-wage workers’ pockets at this time, money that they will then spend, could actually result in a small job gain," Bailey said.

Bailey supports a bill filed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that 57 percent of Kentuckians support the idea.

Stumbo’s measure would also require pay equity for women, who earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

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