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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Education
3:44 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Federal Money to Boost Broadband Capacity of Kentucky's Schools

Kentucky is poised to receive federal grant money to improve broadband speeds in public schools.

The Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program provides $2.4 billion dollars annually to schools across the country to modernize Internet accessibility. 

Now that the FCC has pledged an additional $2 billion for the next two years, Kentucky educators are poised to get a $22 million slice of that pie.

Associate Commissioner of the state’s Office of Next Generation Learners, Amanda Ellis, says the money will improve connectivity to wireless devices that can download video lessons for students to watch at home.

“Students have the opportunity to watch videos in the evening, or after school. And when they go into their classrooms, and their teachers work from what they learned online. That’s not accessible to a lot of people even in the school setting, because it’s not fast enough.”

The FCC is expected to make a decision on the funds next month.

Politics
3:25 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

KRS Chief: State Could Be Stuck with Paying $2.5 Billion in Unpaid Pension Liabilities

Kentucky lawmakers are mulling over ways to deal with a lawsuit between quasi-governmental agencies and their financial relationship to the beleaguered Kentucky Retirement System.

Last year, Seven Counties Services, a mental health nonprofit that contracts with state government, filed for bankruptcy over its pension debt. When a federal judge ruled last month that the nonprofit didn’t have to pay those obligations to the Kentucky Retirement System, KRS executive director Bill Thielen said his organization would appeal the decision.

If that effort fails, the remaining employers in the pension system could foot a $2.4 billion tab to cover the cost of the added liabilities. 

Thielen says he supports legislation like that crafted by Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel that would require groups like Seven Counties who voluntarily withdraw from the retirement system to pay off their pension obligations.

“They would only be able to withdraw having fully paid their obligation, and that’s what we believe should be the case, otherwise all the other participating employers are going to have to pick up the tab,” Thielen told lawmakers Wednesday.

McDaniel’s bill died in the House this year, but lawmakers say they’ll continue studying their options as the appeal in the case drags on for the next couple of years.

Regional
5:09 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Kentucky Aerospace Advocates Push For Industry Study

Aerospace advocates have briefed state lawmakers on how investment in aviation and space technology could spur job creation and improve the STEM scores of public school students.

In the mid-1990s, Kentucky was one of the nation’s leaders in aerospace engineering and manufacturing. 

To hone that edge, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education has partnered with over 30 schools in Kentucky and Tennessee to shore up math and science scores and “pipeline” students into aerospace fields.

Dr. Tim Smith is the CEO of the institute. He says that increased coordination among state cabinets in focusing on aerospace could accelerate the impact of the student pipeline.

“Over the past three years, we’ve noticed we’ve had 100 percent graduation rate," said Smith.  "Not one student has dropped out of school. We’re 17 percent higher on the state average on the ACT, and we meet the benchmarks for college readiness in math and science. We exceed them quite heavily.” 

Experts estimate that as of last year, aerospace manufacturing had a $5.5 billion dollar impact on Kentucky’s economy.

Regional
2:16 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Religious Coalition Protests 'Misleading' Anti-Abortion Claims

A pro-choice religious group says a Kentucky-based abortion counseling center is using misleading tactics to dissuade women from getting the procedure.

The Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice led 40 protesters over the weekend in a demonstration against downtown Louisville’s  “A Woman’s Choice Resource Center.”  KRCRC president Caitlin Willenbrink says the counseling center is one of 100 similar faith-based anti-abortion organizations that use false science .

“They also give out a lot of information that isn’t credible, like information that draws a link between abortion and breast cancer or abortion and mental health issues,” said Willenbrink. “That’s not supported by credible science.”

Willenbrink designed the protest, she says, to draw attention to the issue in advance of the National Right-to-Life Conference, which will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center this weekend.

Health
5:28 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Lawmakers Hear Impassioned Testimony Over Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Will Kentucky be the next state to legalize medical marijuana?

State lawmakers heard Wednesday another round of impassioned testimony over legalizing medical marijuana in the state.

The legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Health & Welfare heard pleas from a nurse practitioner and people with disabilities who say that the drug, which is currently available for medicinal use in 22 states, would alleviate symptoms of pain.

Louisville Democratic Rep.Tom Burch says he thinks it’s just a matter of time before it’s legalized for medical use.

“I was here when we criminalized the use of marijuana back in the 70s," Burch said. "It was a rush to, you know, get these criminals off the street, and all this kind of stuff that was going on. It was ill advised, but it was a good election year and everybody wanted to be against crime, so that's why we passed it, so that a little bag of marijuana would get you five years."

The legislature will take up the issue again next month when it will examine the effects of marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.

Politics
5:10 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Edelen Rules Out 2015 Run for Kentucky Governor

State Auditor Adam Edelen

Citing a need to be with his family, Democratic Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen has declared he won't run for governor next year.

Speculation was rampant that Edelen would enter the contest, but he quelled it with an announcement  Wednesday. 

“My wife and my sons were all gung-ho for me to run, but at the end of the day I made the determination that I’d rather spend the next year-and-a-half coaching little league and catching crooks and running for re-election than I would worrying about my name ID in a governor’s race,” said Edelen

Attorney General Jack Conway is currently the only Democrat seeking the governor's office. 

Edelen says he is withholding any endorsements until more candidates enter the race. 

But he thinks Conway will benefit from greater name recognition among voters. Republican Hal Heiner of Louisville is the only Republican to announce a gubernatorial candidacy so far.

Edelen says he is “absolutely” considering running for governor in the future.

Regional
4:56 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Beshear Addresses National Healthcare Conference

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear addressed a national healthcare conference Tuesday in Washington, where he touted Kentucky’s success in implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Beshear told attendees at the State of Enrollment conference that while Kentuckians continue to hold a negative view of President Barack Obama and his health care law, people are big fans of the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect.

“Another thing we did was carefully separate the politics of the Affordable Care Act from the health care impact of Kynect," said Beshear. "That was a very fine line to walk, and I’m still walking it.”

State Democrats have picked up on the messaging, frequently referring to the state’s implementation as “Beshearcare.”

More than 421,000 Kentuckians have enrolled through Kynect during its six-month opening signup period.

Regional
5:45 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Beshear Says Kentucky Needs Flexibility From EPA on New Carbon Standards

Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants provide the state with some “flexibility” in meeting government targets.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this month that the nation must reduce carbon emissions created by burning coal by 30 percent.

“I am glad that the EPA recognized that states need flexibility. We tried to make that point with them over and over again as they developed this rule,” said Beshear. “What I’m concerned about is they, I’m not sure they’ve given us as much flexibility as we need.”

An analysis by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance research arm found that Kentucky could actually be able to increase its carbon emissions up to 4 percent under the EPA rules.

“We all want a clean environment, and I think we all share that goal. It’s a difference in balance and how we phase in those standards and how we can reach them, and at the same time keep coal jobs in the coal fields and keep manufacturing jobs in Kentucky,” said Beshear.

Regional
5:16 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Beshear: Budget Shortfall Won't Affect Education

Gov. Steve Beshear

Recent state revenue receipts show that Kentucky’s real income is falling short of projections and will lead to a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

State Budget Director Jane Driskell says the state will have to raise revenues by about 12 percent to make up for a nearly $28 million hole that could grow larger if revenues continue to underperform.

But Gov. Steve Beshear, who championed a restoration of education funding during this year’s General Assembly, says if spending cuts need to be juggled to make up for the shortfall, education spending should not be disrupted.

“I can assure you this: The investments that we are making in the next two years in things like education of our kids are not going to be touched," said Beshear.  "We’re not going to interfere with what great steps we have taken to move education forward in Kentucky.”

Beshear says his administration is unsure just how big the shortfall will be, but promised that the budget will ultimately be balanced.

Regional
6:21 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Beshear Pleased With Appeal in Seven Counties Case

Governor Steve Beshear says he is pleased with a decision by the Kentucky Retirement Systems to appeal a recent ruling that would allow quasi-governmental agencies to withdraw from the beleaguered public pension system.

Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that groups like the mental health nonprofit Seven Counties Services, which is currently filing for bankruptcy as a result of its pension debt, could exit KRS because they aren’t government agencies.

Beshear says that if the decision is upheld, it would create millions of dollars in new unfunded pension liabilities.

“It is a very dangerous ruling, in terms of the financial stability of our pension system. And so I want to make sure that that gets a full hearing and hopefully will get overturned on appeal,” said Beshear

The Kentucky Employee Retirement System’s total unfunded liability is about $17 billion.

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