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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Regional
4:25 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Lawmakers Briefed on KRS Investments

State lawmakers are calling for more transparency in how the state’s largest pension fund invests its money into secretive hedge funds and private equity.

Pension Oversight Committee co-chair Sen. Joe Bowen, a Republican from Owensboro, pressed KRS’ investment officer David Peden over the lack of transparency of its investments, saying, " If statute required it, this would have to become transparent. So using that scenario are you saying to us that these current consultants, managers that we got would go away?"

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Economy
4:16 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Report Shows Kentucky Workers Still Struggling

Credit Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new report on the state of Kentucky workers suggests the state’s economy has a ways to go before it fully recovers from the 2008 recession.

But some relief has come as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

As we enter Labor Day Weekend in Kentucky, most workers will take a day off from a job whose wages have stagnated.

That’s one takeaway from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s annual report, “The State of Working Kentucky 2014.”

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Regional
8:29 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Kentucky Police Get Guns, Aircraft—and Socks—From Military Surplus Program

Members of the Kentucky State Police Special Response Team
Credit KSP

Since 2006, Kentucky law enforcement agencies have received armored cars, aircraft, automatic weapons and more from a U.S. military equipment transfer program that has come under fire in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Data, obtained from the Pentagon by The New York Times, identifies transfers of surplus military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense's "1033 program,” which funnels surplus gear to state and local police departments, to 90 of Kentucky's 120 counties.

The records span from 2006 to May 2014, and place the value of the items—in various degrees of quality and offered for free to Kentucky agencies by the federal government—at about $38 million. Nationwide, the program has disbursed over $5 billion of equipment since its inception. 

The program has been scrutinized by civil liberties advocates, citizens and elected officials across the U.S., who have been critical of law enforcement's military-style response to protests in the Ferguson, a predominantly African-American suburb 12 miles north of St. Louis. The unrest occurred in the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown.

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Regional
5:13 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Kentucky Law Enforcement Agencies Bolster Weaponry Via Federal Program

Kentucky law enforcement agencies have received armored cars, aircraft, thousands of automatic weapons and more from a controversial U.S. military equipment transfer program that has been under fire in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

The data, obtained by  The New York Times, identifies transfers of surplus military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense's "1033" program, which funnels extra gear to state and local police departments. The records span from 2006 to May 2014, and indicate 90 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have participated.

Kentucky State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Webb says that the equipment is necessary, and that lethal force is used only in circumstances that require it.

“The deployment of that particular type of technology, whatever--if it’s a weapon or its boots or uniform items or whatever--obviously is going to be very dependent upon the situation and the role of that unit,” said Sgt. Webb.

The ACLU of Kentucky, however, says the program needs more transparency, and that while some of the equipment is justifiable, they disagree that police departments need such heavy weaponry.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Sun August 24, 2014

Where Do Kentucky’s Gubernatorial Candidates Stand on Coal and Climate Change?

Hal Heiner

Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner says he isn’t sure whether burning fossil fuels like coal contributes to climate change.

 Heiner spoke to Kentucky Public Radio at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s country ham breakfast last Thursday, saying that he’s on the fence when it comes to climate science.

“I don’t have a scientific position, on contribution or not, but what I do know is … if we’re going to stay economically competitive in a global marketplace, we have to burn coal,” said Heiner.

Heiner recently attacked his primary opponent, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, over comments he made last year that the state needs to move “beyond coal.”

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Regional
5:51 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Grimes Calls Campaign Bus Accusations 'Basesless, Unfounded, Bullying'

Credit Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes denies accusations that her campaign may have violated federal campaign finance laws.

When asked by reporters at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s ham breakfast in Louisville Thursday, Grimes downplayed a Politico report suggesting her father, Kentucky Democratic party power broker Jerry Lundergan, used his catering company to purchase his daughter’s campaign bus then rented it to her for far less than  market value.

"These are baseless, unfounded, bullying accusations from the McConnell campaign, just an attempt to try to divert attention away from serious questions that Kentuckians have about Mitch McConnell's family profiting off the loss of coal jobs," said Grimes.

The McConnell campaign did not address Grimes’ accusation in a statement to Kentucky Public Radio, saying instead that her campaign is suffering from “potentially very significant legal problems.”

Regional
1:47 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

KRS To Receive $23 Million From BOA Settlement

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a $16.6 billion settlement between six states’ attorneys general and Bank of America Thursday over fraudulent mortgage-backed securities that fueled the 2008 financial crash. The settlement  includes $23 million for investments made by the Kentucky Retirement System.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced the details of Kentucky's share of the settlement in a conference call from Washington.

He said the state will recoup $23 million toward $21.6 million in losses incurred by KRS over fraudulent securities that the pension's investment team purchased from BofA and its subsidiaries.

"Classic securities fraud 101. In essence, that Bank of America entities knew that they were packaging subprime mortgages into the securities that they were marketing yet were not informing investors about the risk inherent in the securities they were selling," said Conway.

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Regional
5:15 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

JCTA, Louisville Educators Clash Over Underfunded Teachers' Pension

Jefferson County Teacher's Association president Brent McKim; Louisville League of Women Voters president Pat Murrell; pension expert Chris Tobe
Credit Jonathan Meador

Louisville educators who support a lawsuit seeking to recoup lost money from Kentucky's underfunded teachers' pension system clashed this week with the head of the Jefferson County teachers' union.

The Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System serves about 145,000 teachers across the state and is underfunded by about $14 billion, largely because the state legislature hasn't in recent years provided the necessary contributions to keep it solvent. New state pension accounting standards to be enacted starting this year will compound that $14 billion liability, raising it to about $22 billion.

The issue was at the center of a panel discussion Monday in Louisville that included Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim and Chris Tobe, a state pension expert and former Kentucky Retirement Systems board member.

If the legislature fails to take action, the pensions could enter a "death spiral"  where it may not be able to make sufficient investments or meet its obligations to pensioners, Tobe and McKim said.

Some, including Tobe, estimate that could happen by 2036.

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Kentucky's Pensions
4:13 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

LaRue County GOP Passes Resolution Urging Lawmakers to Fix Broken Pension System

LaRue County's GOP secretary says the pensions issue affects the financial future of the state.

The LaRue County Republican Party has passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to fund and fix Kentucky’s underfunded pension system, which commands tens of billions of dollars worth of debt. The action is the latest example of growing statewide concern over the issue.

From a mental health nonprofit in Louisville, to a small northern Kentucky city, the LaRue County GOP is the latest in a line of concerned groups actively trying to get Frankfort to do something about the state’s pension system, which has been underfunded by the General Assembly for years, causing liabilities to swell and threatening their abilities to pay public employees.

“An overlooked, underappreciated major financial problem statewide in Kentucky,” said Gil Myers, the LaRue County GOP Secretary. “One that affects every resident, every hard working family, every business and farm, now and in the future.”

The resolution expresses support for a bipartisan task force to examine the issue, which was championed by GOP Floor Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover this year, but died in the Democratic- controlled House of Representatives.

Politics
7:56 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Kentucky Legislative Hearing Becomes Proxy Battle For GOP Gubernatorial Candidates

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters (left) and Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy John Lyons (right).
Credit Jonathan Meador

FRANKFORT—A state legislative hearing Friday on proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions became a flashpoint in Kentucky's Republican gubernatorial primary.

Lawmakers on an energy subcommittee heard testimony from Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters on how the state must respond to regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which seek to lower carbon dioxide emissions in the state by about 17 percent by 2030, with a national target reduction of 30 percent that same year.

Calling climate change "a global issue," Peters' presentation included an overview of centuries' worth of climate science to put the EPA regulations into context for the lawmakers, many of whom have taken a hostile stance toward the federal agency since the proposed regulations were first announced in June.

By 2040, 57 percent of the state's coal-fired power plants will be retired, which echoed other studies that show Kentucky's reliance on coal will diminish in the future, Peters said.

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