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
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.

Regional
5:14 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Bills Promise to Strengthen Kentucky's Cyber Security Measures

Gov. Steve Beshear ceremonially signed a pair of bills Wednesday aimed at improving the state’s ability to protect Kentuckians’ data.

House Bills 5 and 232 require the state and private businesses to notify citizens in the event that their collected personal data is compromised by a security breach

“With more of our sensitive financial and health information being stored on the Internet everyday, both government and private businesses have to embrace the latest technology to protect that sensitive information,” said Beshear.

The legislation also permits the government to investigate security breaches, and to take steps to protect personal information collected by the state.

Politics
8:42 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Study: Kentucky's Public Spending Among the Most Corrupt in Nation

Credit Kentucky LRC

A new study suggests that states with high levels of public corruption like Kentucky tend to spend more money on capital construction projects and police protection at the expense of social services.

The journal Public Administration Review found a correlation between states with higher instances of corruption and the scale of a state's spending in certain economic sectors. It also found that between 1997 and 2008, corruption actually inflated a state's total annual expenditures.

"During that time, the 10 most corrupt states could have reduced their total annual expenditure by an average of $1,308 per capita—5.2 percent of the mean per capita state expenditure—if corruption had been at the average level of the states," the study states.

"Moreover, at the expense of social sectors, corruption is likely to distort states’ public resource allocations in favor of higher-potential “bribe-generating” spending and items directly beneficial to public officials, such as capital, construction, highways, borrowing, and total salaries and wages."

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Regional
4:46 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Arnold Appeals Commission's Verdict on Sexual Harassment Claims

Former State Rep. John Arnold
Credit Jonathan Meador

Former Kentucky state Rep. John Arnold has filed an appeal in an ethics case in which he was found guilty of abusing his office by sexually harassing three female state House employees.

Arnold’s attorney filed an appeal in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday asking a judge to rescind a public reprimand and $3,000 in fines levied against the former lawmaker by a state ethics panel last month.

The appeal claims that the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission acted outside of its jurisdiction when it ruled against Arnold because he was not a sitting member of the legislature at the time of the trial.

Business
8:19 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Giving Natural Gas Bigger Role in State's Energy Portfolio

A natural gas filling station

A stable of Kentucky lawmakers are learning how natural gas can be developed to meet the state’s transportation needs.   

Industry experts briefed members of the committees on energy and natural resources at the Owensboro convention center Thursday on the viability of natural gas filling stations, which are currently limited across the state.

“It’s an important issue for Kentucky," said Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter, a co-chair of both committees. "Gas has become a major player, in providing energy sources for Kentucky, and that's why we wanted to come to Owensboro."

"One of our members, this is his home community, and they've got a beautiful facility, and they just worked hand-in-hand so we could hear a presentation from the gas association and learn more about what they're doing."

Natural gas is expected to comprise a larger share of the state’s energy sources in the future.

Politics
8:20 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Kentucky's Democratic, GOP Legislative Leaders Unite Against New EPA Regulations

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (center) and House Speaker Greg Stumbo (right) both disagree with new federal guidelines concerning power plant emissions.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky’s two top-ranking lawmakers have  some choice words about new coal emissions regulations announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo are slamming the proposed rules, which will cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.  .

“You can’t formulate energy policy for a growing country like ours, if you’re not going to consider, as part of that solution, your most abundant resource," Stumbo said. "It doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s a dumbass thing to do, and you can quote me on that.”

Stumbo added that he didn’t think that the rules will affect the outcome of the November House elections, where Democrats hope to retain a narrow majority over Republicans.

The regulations are subject to public input and will be officially enacted a year from now.

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Agriculture
1:42 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Kentucky Hemp Development Could Get Boost from County Loan Program

Hemp seeds have been legally planted in Kentucky recently for the first time in decades.

Kentucky’s burgeoning hemp industry may receive a shot in the arm later this year if the state changes a loan program for agricultural processors.

Roger Thomas is the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He says a loan program designed to cover the costs of processing other agricultural products could apply to hemp processing once state universities have determined which hemp products are best suited for Kentucky.

“If the research proves that it’s a viable crop for Kentucky farmers, then perhaps later this year the Ag Development Board might look at tweaking some guidelines to allow the County Agricultural Investment Program, the county funds, to be accessed for that purpose.”

State agriculture experts predict that the cost of creating infrastructure for a new hemp industry will affect how successful it can become.

Regional
7:07 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Kentucky City Sues State Pension System Over Risky Investments

A Kentucky city is suing the state's public pension system over its investment of county employees' retirement money into "risky" hedge funds.

An attorney for Ft. Wright, a northern Kentucky city of 5,700, filed a class-action lawsuit Monday alleging that Kentucky Retirement Systems improperly used money from one of its subsidiary funds to make investments that were illegal under state law.

The civil suit, filed in Kenton Circuit Court, alleges that KRS put an "unreasonably large percentage" of money from a subsidiary fund -- County Employment Retirement System (CERS) --  in "high risk investments which are not appropriate investments for fiduciaries under the common law of Kentucky."

KRS has come under increasing scrutiny over the last couple of years due to poor performance, investments in risky hedge funds and, more recently, the handsome fees those hedge funds reaped from its contracts with the state's beleaguered $15 billion pension system. KRS was recently named among the worst-funded pension system in the nation, at under 24 percent funding.

The lawsuit seeks a court order of damages in total of at least $50 million, which Ft. Wright argues was spent on "management fees" charged by hedge funds and private equity groups per KRS' investment strategy. The lawsuit also seeks to establish a separate investment portfolio for the subsidiary fund, CERS. This would effectively divorce it from the current system whereby CERS' assets are "co-mingled" with KRS.

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Agriculture
5:00 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Financial Impact of Kentucky Hemp Remains to be Seen

Hemp can now be planted in Kentucky following a legal battle between Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and the federal government.

Now that hemp seeds have made it into Kentucky soil, larger questions remain about the impact industrial hemp will have on the economy. 

Proponents like Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer say hemp has a market that includes hundreds of products ranging from cosmetics to automobile paneling.

University of Kentucky Agriculture Professor Will Snell

“It’s going to be a piece of the puzzle for some producers, potentially, but at the present time I think the market will evolve slowly, and don’t necessarily think at this point in time, especially in the short run, it would be a significant number of producers," says University of Kentucky Agriculture Professor Will Snell.

Snell co-authored at 2013 report that suggested only a few dozen jobs would be created and that hemp would amount to less than one percent of Kentucky’s farm cash receipts. 

Hear more about Kentucky’s hemp comeback and its prospects of boosting the economy during Morning Edition Monday at 7:50 a.m. central time, 8:50 a.m. eastern time.

Politics
4:44 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

KSP: No Evidence of Cover-Up Related to Sexual Harassment Case Against Arnold

Former Union Co. Rep. John Arnold
Credit Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

After a nearly seven-month investigation, Kentucky State Police say they have found no evidence that former Legislative Research Commission Executive Director Bobby Sherman shredded work-related documents to cover-up information on sexual harassment within the state legislature.

KSP Trooper Paul Blanton says the acting detective on the case has finished his investigation and concluded that Sherman's activities weren't illegal and didn't involve a cover-up of sexual harassment by former state Rep. John Arnold or other lawmakers.

“The investigation into the destruction of documents to conceal this physical assault or sexual assault--there was no evidence of that."

Blanton says state police will release the case files sometime in the next two weeks.

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