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
12:25 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Democrat Accuses Kentucky Republicans of Injecting 'Washington Style Politics' Into Budget Process

Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, presents the House version of the state budget before the Kentucky House.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky Public Radio's Jonathan Meador reports on the House budget process

After much debate, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed its budget to fund state government for the next two years this week. The $20.3 billion spending plan is nearly identical to one proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear, and it largely preserves funding for K through 12 education, which has been a stated priority of the governor.

The sparring over the plan on the House floor could be a sign of things to come in November, when many lawmakers are up for re-election.

In a sprawling five-hour debate, House members argued over how best to spend the money of Kentucky taxpayers.

“Mr. Speaker, this is an important budget. And I think anyone who votes yes on this budget today can feel good about that vote,” said Rick Rand, Democratic House budget chair.

Rand sponsored a last-minute substitute to the budget that counteracted a slew of Republican amendments, including one from GOP Rep. Joe Fischer that would repeal the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and defund Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect.

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Business/Politics
12:51 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Right to Work Bill Fails to Clear Kentucky Panel

House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, follows debate in the House Labor and Industry Committee as they consider his "Right To Work" bill.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Right-to-work legislation has died in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

The Republican-backed bill was met with stiff opposition from labor unions and House Democrats.

Committee Room 149 was standing room only, with union members crossed-armed along the edges of the packed hearing on a bill that would prohibit workers from paying union dues as a condition of employment.

They say the measure filed by House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover would lower wages for all workers.

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan says the decline in American jobs is related to free-trade agreements.

“It’s happening alright. Thirty-six-thousand-four-hundred jobs since 2001 due to our flawed trade agreements with China. Maybe we should be talking about that, and not right-to-work," Londrigan said to applause from many in the audience.

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Kentucky Budget
10:48 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Kentucky House Expected to Vote on Governor's Budget Proposal Thursday

Gov. Beshear's budget plan in before House lawmakers in Frankfort.

The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax by two percent.

Filed by Rep. Rick Rand, the measure passed by nine votes. It will also tax instant horse racing, and retroactively fix issues with library taxing districts.

But the body delayed an anticipated vote on its version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget proposal, which funds state government for the next two years. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says lawmakers need extra time to study the measure.

“I think this is a good budget for education, for economic development, for health and human services," Rep. Adkins said. "The other items that we’ve tried to build back in after $1.6 billion of cuts since 2008, so we think that, we’re very confident that we have the votes.”

The House is expected to vote on its budget Thursday.

Politics
4:35 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

More Doubt Cast on Prospects for Statewide Smoking Ban

Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The sponsors of a pair of bills that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky say their proposed legislation has been stalled in the General Assembly.

Louisville Republican Julie Denton filed one of the bills in the Senate. And she's been frustrated by what she sees as the inability of both parties to support the issue.

“There are so many compelling things that I don’t understand why we can’t get this to move forward in either chamber," said Rep. Denton. "So obviously it’s not a partisan issue, it’s both sides. It’s all sides. I’m frustrated.”

Last week, Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom declared her smoking-ban bill “dead” after House leadership refused to bring the measure to the floor.

Politics
9:20 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Beshear's Budget, Mostly Intact, Begins to Make Its Way Through Legislature

Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

A number of budget bills are moving through the Kentucky legislature, including a modified version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s $20.3 billion biennial budget.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee cleared bills that would fund the state’s legislative, executive, judicial branches for the next two years.

Louisville Rep. Jim Wayne was one of the few lawmakers who voted against Beshear's planned budget. He lamented a provision in the bill that would cut funds for indigent health care at the University of Louisville Hospital.

“This is a real concern in our community because the city had to cut back its share also, and just recently there was a case where someone who was burned on 50 percent of their body who was put on the street ended up in the Wayside mission because he had no insurance, even though they tried to register him," the Jefferson County Democrat said. "Somehow bureaucracy got delayed.”

The funds were reduced as a part of savings assumed by the governor through the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the House is poised to pass the budget bill Wednesday.

The legislature has until April 15 to pass a new state budget.

Regional
1:44 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Local Sales Tax Option Passes House Committee

A plan to give local governments the ability to pay for capital projects with a temporary, one percent, sales tax increase is headed to the Kentucky House. The measure has cleared a committee, but faces difficult prospects.

Because it would amend the state constitution, the measure will need a super majority in both the House and the Senate. It would then go to the public on the November ballot.

House Democratic leaders are split over the bill. Speaker Greg Stumbo says rural taxpayers will end up with the bill for projects that will be used more by their urban counterparts.

But Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, says Stumbo hasn’t really made up his mind.

“We’ll just keep educating folks. I mean, the input for Speaker Stumbo’s coming from all over the state, in terms of who’s for this bill, both rural and metropolitan areas,” said Fischer. “So we’ll hope he’ll listen to the people and be for the bill.”

Fischer has been the issue's chief cheerleader for years.

Bill Sponsor Tommy Thompson of Owensboro realizes passage before the full house will be challenging.

“We’ll go to the floor, talk to the members, continue to discuss, continue to provide information and we’ll see where it goes.  This is a fluid process.  I think this particular bill has some great momentum for a good reason,” said Thompson.

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Regional
12:40 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Kentucky House Budget Plan Mirrors Beshear's Blueprint, Including Education Funding Requests

Rep. Jim Stewart (left) and Rep. Rick Rand in the Kentucky House chamber
Credit Kentucky LRC

A budget proposal to be unveiled by the Kentucky  House of Representatives will closely resemble the $20 billion biennial budget outlined by Gov. Steve Beshear.

House Appropriations and Revenue chair Rick Rand says that that chamber’s budget will be virtually the same as the governor’s, specifically in the area of education. It  largely preserves Beshear’s requests for the funding formula known as SEEK  and implements raises for teachers.

He says that the biggest differences between the House’s proposal and the governor’s plan include rejecting new fees for county property valuation administrators, as well factoring in pay hikes for Legislative Research Commission staff despite cuts to that agency.

“The challenges we had to face were twofold. One was the PVA issue, which obviously we didn’t accept. And then we really felt that, you know, with the governor just took the LRC budget and cut it five percent. it didn’t allow for state employees pay raises, or LRC employee pay raises, or increased cost of retirement, so we added those in.”

Rand says the committee will likely pass a budget bill Tuesday, and he expects the full House to approve the measure on Wednesday.

After that, it will head to the Republican-led Senate.

Politics
8:57 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Bill Would Let Rand Paul Run for Two Offices at Once

Credit Lisa Autry

Rand Paul's biggest political decision is approaching: whether to run for president in 2016 or focus solely on re-election to his U.S. Senate seat.

A Republican lawmaker from his home state wants to free him from the potential dilemma by letting him run for both.

State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said Thursday he wants to clarify that current Kentucky law, which prevents someone from running for multiple offices, does not apply to federal elections.

A bill he introduced would allow candidates' names to appear twice on the same ballot if one or both offices sought are federal offices.

Thayer says he was approached by Paul's staff about the legislation and later spoke several times with Kentucky's freshman senator about it.

“I think Sen. Paul has a strong legal case, whether or not the General Assembly takes action," said Thayer."  I’m interested in supporting his desire to consider the presidency, because I don’t want him to run with one hand tied behind his back.”

Paul has said he won't make a decision about a White House bid until after the midterm elections in November.

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Business/Politics
8:48 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Louisville Mayor Pushing Local Option Sales Tax, but Faces Opposition from Fellow Democrats

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is continuing his push for the local option sales tax, which would let communities vote on temporary sales tax increases to fund projects.

The Democratic mayor is facing opposition to the plan, but not from where you might expect. Much of the criticism of the effort comes from the political left.

In a 15-minute pitch in Frankfort, Fischer extolled the civic virtues of a sales tax that he says would be used to fund local projects chosen by committee and placed on a ballot before voters.

“We need additional capital sources," the mayor told his audience. "In the case of Louisville, 11 years ago four percent of our general fund was for pensions. Today it’s 15 percent. So it’s like a business, we’ve had an 11 percent increase in our expenses, but we haven’t been able to raise our prices; that is, we haven’t had a tax increase.”

But fellow Louisvillian and fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Wayne cited a study that showed the local option means lower income residents would pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthier residents.

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Politics
5:52 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Westrom: Kentucky Smoking Ban Bill Is Dead For This Legislative Session

The sponsor of a bill that would ban smoking in public places and some private businesses in Kentucky says House Democratic leadership has killed the measure.

Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, says a combination of pressure from lobbying groups and political concerns of colleagues with tobacco farms in their districts were behind the bill's failure.

“Some of our leadership polled here on the floor, they weren’t convinced that we had the votes," Westrom said. "And, quite frankly, I just don’t think they wanted to risk it in case it was an uncomfortable vote for somebody.”

Westrom says some lawmakers were likely “scared” by lobbyists.

Tobacco companies have spent handsomely this year, at $70,000 in lobbying expenditures in the first month of the session.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo denies that leadership killed the bill. He says support for it dwindled as the session continued.

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