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
1:48 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Slate is Set for 2014 Elections in Kentucky

The Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office reports about 4,800 candidates are in the running for more than  300 races across the state as the deadline  for candidates to file expired Tuesday.

All eyes will be on the state House, where Democrats hold a narrow majority of 54 seats to Republicans’ 46 seats.

Democrat John Warren is one of several candidates who filed Tuesday.  He’s running against incumbent Suzanne Miles in the 7th House District.

Miles recently won a special election after former Rep. John Arnold resigned amid allegations he had sexually harassed female statehouse staffers.

Warren who works in Agriculture  says he thinks the scandal shouldn't hurt his chances.

“That has nothing to do with me, and really nothing to do with the Democratic Party. That’s a personal issue he had, and you know, I wish John all the best," remarks Warren.  "I guess sometimes people make decisions, hopefully for the right reason, some for the wrong. But anyway, I have nothing against John, and that’s totally none of my business.”

The Secretary of State must certify candidates’ names to county clerks by February 10.

Politics
8:37 am
Wed January 29, 2014

New PAC is Aimed at Helping Kentucky Republicans Win Control of State House

Hal Heiner

A newly-formed Super PAC will target Kentucky House races this fall in an effort to win a GOP majority in that chamber.

New Direction Kentucky is a nonprofit founded by former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, who is rumored to be a GOP contender for next year's governor’s race.

Currently, Democrats retain a narrow majority in the House, with 54 seats to the Republicans’ 46.

New Direction Kentucky spokesman Joe Burgan says the group will not directly give money to campaigns, but will raise funds to purchase ads in contested races come November.

“We will do grassroots work; we will do paid media; we will do earned media. So that’s TV, radio, mail. Working with the press. To really do everything we can to get these candidates across the line," Burgain said.

The group is comprised of business and political luminaries, including Humana founder David Jones.

Burgan did not say how much money the group intends to raise.

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Politics
3:15 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Wayne: Balancing Kentucky Budget Shouldn't Depend on Leveling Licensure Fees

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, discusses a bill up for consideration in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
Credit Kentucky LRC

The legislative scrutiny has begun for Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's proposed budget.

Some lawmakers are critical of the proposal for relying on professional license fees to balance the budget.

From barbers to doctors, blue and white-collar professionals in Kentucky must pay licensure fees in order to practice their given trade. Those fees then go back into funding and staffing the licensing board.

But Beshear’s budget proposal transfers about $370 million in surplus fees to the General Fund, creating a structural imbalance.

Rep. Jim Wayne calls that robbery.

“It puts the boards and commissions in a position where they have to raise the rates on people who are being regulated by their boards and commissions," the Louisville Democrat said. "So, if they don’t have the money to sustain them because it’s been robbed by the governor, they have to go back and then tax, in essence.”

Wayne says the practice has become so commonplace, it’s become a “new normal.”

Kentucky's Troubled Pensions
3:42 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Pension Director: Kentucky Facing Ticking Timebomb When It Comes to Paying Retirees

Kentucky's pension systems are slated to have to pay out more than $17 billion that the state doesn't have.

The numbers come from Kentucky Retirement Systems director William Thielen, who testified before lawmakers in Frankfort Monday. He says the state's various pension funds have only a fraction of what they need to pay all potential retirees.

Thielen says if lawmakers make good on a promise to fund the pensions with the recommend amount, known as the ARC, it'll take a few years before the unfunded liability starts to drop.

“It’ll bottom out around 2018 or ‘19, and then start increasing. But, again, that depends on the full ARC being paid and for us meeting all of our assumptions, and most importantly our investment assumptions," Thielen told lawmakers.

Gov. Steve Beshear has appropriated about $200 million for KRS over the next two years.

Politics
2:47 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Should Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Marital Fidelity When Hiring Next LRC Director?

A Kentucky Representative wants to address the moral character of a top state employee.

The Legislative Research Commission provides a variety of services to the General Assembly. The agency's previous director retired last fall amid reports by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that he was having an extramarital affair with a subordinate who had received substantial pay raises.

Currently, lawmakers are considering a measure that would offer LRC employees a portion of any savings they can generate in the agency. But Representative Tom Riner has amended the legislation to address the moral character and marital fidelity of the next director of the LRC, who has yet to be hired.

Rep. Steve Riggs, the bill's original sponsor, says he agrees with the intent of Riner's amendment, but it can't be enforced as written.

“That one I told him we couldn’t do, cause we can’t prove or disprove fidelity," Riggs said. "We don’t have an investigation team to do that. His has been narrowed down to just deal with morality and ethics.”

The amended bill now awaits a second reading on the House floor.

Kentucky's Troubled Pensions
3:17 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Like "The Walking Dead": Kentucky's Pension Liabilities Creating Nightmare Scenarios

AMC’s hit zombie-apocalypse-drama ‘The Walking Dead’ is a story about a shambling mass of the undead that brings civilization to its knees.

Chris Tobe says the show is an apt metaphor for what will happen if Kentucky lawmakers don't get serious about funding the state’s pension systems.

“I think we’re going to be ‘The Walking Dead’ for a long time,” Tobe says. “We’re all gonna keep saying, ‘oh, we’re just fine,’ and we’re gonna be ‘The Walking Dead’ for a long, long time.”

Tobe is a former trustee of the Kentucky Retirement Systems turned whistleblower who has over 30 years of public and private experience in financial investments. He's also a private consultant for pension funds elsewhere.

He says that for over a decade, legislators and governors from both parties have underfunded the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, or KERS, which provides pensions to state employees.

Currently, there's only enough money in the fund to pay about a quarter of the liability, which is what it will need to pay out in benefits.

Tobe says it's one of the worst in the nation.

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Education
2:46 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Computer Programming Course Would Count as Foreign Language Class Under Kentucky Bill

A bill that would allow computer programming courses to count toward foreign language requirements in Kentucky schools has passed out of a Senate committee.

Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg sponsored the measure and told the committee it's needed to prepare Kentucky’s students for a modern economy.

“Part of the challenge goes to the fact that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and the numbers continue to decline as the job opportunities increase."

Givens also says his bill would help close a knowledge gap for women and minorities, groups he says are under-represented in the fields of computer science.

Politics
1:04 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Gambling Opponents: Increased Gaming Will Mean More Addiction and Crime

Opponents of expanded gambling in Kentucky are focusing on the social costs of casinos.

Testimony from anti-gaming groups in Frankfort Wednesday connected expanded gambling with increases in crime and gambling addiction.

Former Representative Stan Cave is now with the anti-gaming Family Foundation. He says in addition to the vices associated with gambling, he’s concerned with a lack of transparency governing gambling interests.

“The gambling bill enables concealment, and licenses secrecy," he said. "For example, section four expands the exceptions to the open records law, to whatever the new gambling commission considers, quote, ‘confidential, proprietary information of the commission.’”

Legislation has been filed to amend the state constitution to allow expanded gambling and to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.

The legislation in the House includes funds for treating gambling addiction.

Neither chamber has taken up the issue for a vote on their respective floors.

Regional
5:24 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Governor Beshear's Budget Preserves K-12 Education, 5% Cuts for Other Agencies

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Making good on his pledge to reinvest in K-12 education, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's biennial budget would restore public education funding to 2008 levels, with a pledge of $189 million in a budget greater than $20 billion.

But Beshear said his budget was was made possible in large part by a 5 percent cut across many state agencies. 

"Two weeks ago," Beshear began on Tuesday evening, "I stood here and signaled my intent in clear and decisive words: 'I am determined to find money to reinvest in education,' I said then, 'Even if I have to make harmful cuts in other areas to do so.' Well, that's precisely what this two-year budget proposal does: It makes damaging cuts in many areas in order to keep Kentucky at the forefront of educational attainment in this nation."

Beshear said restoring SEEK formula for primary and high school education funding was among his top priories in crafting the 2014-2016 budget, which will also seek to invest $100 million in broadband Internet access in Eastern Kentucky, and set aside bond revenue for construction projects for Kentucky Community and Technical College System schools.

The Cuts

Since taking office, Beshear has reduced state services by a cumulative 41 percent, for a total of $1.6 billion in cuts over the last six years. The additional cuts would likely have an effect on employee attrition, prompting layoffs, service delays and facility closures.

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Business/Politics
8:23 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Two Kentucky Lawmakers Want to Allow Private Development on Some Public Land, Including State Parks

Two Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development.

Under legislation from Republican Representatives Richard Heath and Ken Imes, hotels and other private developments could be built in public parks, with the state's permission.

But Imes says the bill isn’t about privatization.

“We’re not trying to privatize parks. Basically, I like to use the word ‘franchise.’ What I’m trying to do is save our parks system in Kentucky. It’s deteriorating rapidly through nobody’s fault other than we just can’t keep ‘em up.”

The previous state budget slashed the parks budget by over eight percent, which led to shorter park operating hours across the commonwealth.

Imes says his bill could open the door to private management of some state parks, which he says would reduce their operating cost to taxpayers.

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