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Late Tuesday night, as the clock struck midnight, Oklahoma lawmakers introduced two budget bills that had been eagerly awaited for weeks.

As The Oklahoman reports, one of the bills includes funding for teacher pay raises, and the other doesn’t. The bills were introduced at 11:14 p.m., and the House budget committee had 46 minutes to approve them before midnight, to meet a procedural deadline. Legislators now have a few days to review the bills.

Reynaldo Leal / Texas Tribune

A little-noticed bill in the Texas Legislature has drawn the attention—and the alarm—of health care professionals.

As The Texas Tribune reports, House Bill 3236 would speed up the process by which promising, experimental drugs can get into the hands of terminally ill patients.

On today's edition of Growing on the High Plains, I've decided to thaw out an old memory of a particularly harsh winter and the devastation of vegetation that it brought to our region.

But don't worry! It's not all frozen ground and brittle branches. This is a story that celebrates the pioneer spirit of the Plains. Despite nature's cruel cull during the winter of '91, what sprouted from the loss was a renewed sense of stewardship, community, and loving memorial. 

Wikimedia Commons

TOPEKA – Sen. Bud Estes, R-Dodge City, will try to ax a proposed $120 annual charge to water right owners to finance public schools.

“It has nothing to do with utility bills,” Estes said at the Monday afternoon meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance.

Senate Bill 251 contains the Senate’s proposed school finance formula and it would levy a $2.25 monthly charge on residential water, electric and natural gas bills. For non-residential customers, the monthly charge would be $10 on each of the three utilities.

Kansas Public Radio

The filing deadline isn’t until next June. But candidates already are lining up for what could be the toughest job in Kansas: succeeding Gov. Sam Brownback.

Four hopefuls are at least tentatively in the race and several more are thinking about getting in, including some Republican heavyweights.

Who?

Well, Kansas Secretary of State and political lightning rod Kris Kobach for one. Interviewed at the Kansas Republican Party’s state convention earlier this year, he said, “I am taking a very serious look at the governor’s race.”

Typically dry Arkansas River flowing water, for now

May 24, 2017
Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

There has been a rare sight in the normally dry Arkansas River south of Garden City lately – flowing water.

As The Garden City Telegram reports, as much as two feet of water has been running through the normally dried out river bed – the result of wetter weather conditions upstream.

Laura Skelding / Texas Tribune

Earlier this week we reported on how Dan Patrick, the Texas Lt. Gov., was threatening to send the state Legislature into a special session if the state House of Representatives didn’t approve the so-called “bathroom” bill, as well as a measure that would make it difficult for communities to raise property taxes.

Creative Commons

A bill that would place a statewide ban on texting while driving in Texas has cleared the Texas Senate, KUT reports.

The measure outlasted a last-ditch effort by the Senate to substantially weaken the bill. It now moves forward in its original form, back to the House, where it’s expected to be approved again as no changes have been made. Then, the bill will head to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, where it will become law barring a veto by Abbott.

Anonymous Cow / Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to labor force growth and rates of certain crimes, Amarillo doesn’t measure up to similar cities, according to a new study reported by The Amarillo Globe-News.

The study, from a group called Avalanche Consulting, found that Amarillo has more violent crime and property crime than comparable cities like Lubbock, Chattanooga, and Rochester, Minnesota.

ABBIE FENTRESS SWANSON / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

As the Trump administration takes the initial steps toward renegotiating one of the country’s most influential and controversial trade deals, groups that represent farmers and ranchers are already waving a caution sign.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Today on High Plains Morning, we had Scott Stine live in the studio to talk about the Bad Magik Musik Fest that takes over Sam Houston Park this SATURDAY from noon to 9p. It's famliy-friendly, dog-welcoming, and features community-minded local vendors, artists, food, and fun.

Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday HPPR looked at the balance of power among Republicans and Democrats in state legislatures across the High Plains. Today we thought we’d have a look at the tally when it comes to governorships and national officeholders in our listening region.

William Luther / San Antonio Express News

Unemployment numbers for April have been released, and Texas added over 30,000 new jobs on the month, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

That means the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month held steady at five percent. Meanwhile in Oklahoma, the rate remained unchanged at 4.3 percent, despite the Sooner State shedding 2,500 jobs last month. 

Creative Commons

The unemployment rate in Kansas dropped slightly as neighboring Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped to a record low last month.

According to the Wichita Eagle, preliminary estimates from the Kansas Department of Labor showed Kansas’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 3.8 percent in March to 3.7 percent in April.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, after the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015 and about 500,000 people in the state gained health insurance coverage and about 400,000 people got covered through expanded eligibility of Medicaid.

Wheat ‘a dead man walking’ type crop?

May 23, 2017
Louise Ehmke

The grain traders in Chicago are thinking that the damage to the Kansas wheat crop from the late-season blizzard and freezing temperatures …is only modest. After all, it’s standing up now and field after field looks like it has 70-bushel yield potential. But Jim Shroyer says, “They may have a bad surprise waiting for them.”

After a trip through west-central and southwest Kansas on May 9, Shroyer, K-State Extension wheat specialist emeritus, says much of the wheat he looked at does look great.

Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society

HPPR listeners thinking about the theme of this year’s book club--Borders and Becoming--need to keep in mind that borders change to meet the needs of those who live within them. Over the last two and a half centuries, the parameters of the United States changed repeatedly. A modern day description of the contiguous states would include Folksinger Woody Guthrie’s first stanza of “This Land Is Your Land.”

Jim Beckel / The Oklahoman

It’s no secret that Republicans tend to win more elections on the High Plains than Democrats. But with the recent struggles in Donald Trump’s White House, the national media has been flooded with stories about how the GOP may be in trouble in next year’s midterm elections.

With that in mind, we decided to have a look at exactly what the balance of power looks like in our listening area.

Nick Youngson http://nyphotographic.com/

As the Texas Panhandle faces a rising number of foster children without homes, the Texas Legislature Monday passed a law that would turn away some prospective parents for religious reasons.

As ABC 7 Amarillo reports, there is a growing need for foster homes in the Texas Panhandle.

Sandra J. Milburn / The Hutchinson News

There’s an old saying that wheat has nine lives.

But in western Kansas, farmers have pretty much used all of them.

Yet, despite just about every plague imaginable that could strike this year’s stand – including snow, freeze and disease – farmers aren’t writing off the 2017 wheat just yet.

“I’ve been told my entire life – never give up on the western Kansas wheat crop,” said Trevor Witt, agronomist and sales manager at the Garden City Co-op who has been scouting wheat fields after the late April snowstorm.

Palmer amaranth and other weeds may develop resistance to common herbicides if they aren't successfully killed.Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public MediaEdit | Remove

Belt-tightening has been the trend for row-crop farmers in the Midwest for the past several years as corn and soybean prices remain low. Reducing application of expensive herbicides may be tempting to save money, but that’s a strategy that could result in severe economic consequences down the road.

Kansas Agland /

  A bill that would enable farmers to eventually obtain a license to plant industrial hemp has moved to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

The move is one hemp supporters wanted to help get the bill passed this session. The bill was referred to the committee on Thursday.

Meanwhile, hemp supporters are planning a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. June 5 at the public library in Coffeyville, said Kelly Rippel, who is with Kansans for Hemp.

Jim Beckel / The Oklahoman

Attempts in the Oklahoma Legislature to fix the state’s massive budget shortfall fell apart this weekend, reports The Oklahoman.

Both chambers had hoped to reach a last minute deal to avoid a special session. But by the end of Saturday it was clear that Oklahoma lawmakers were not going to find enough common ground to avoid working overtime.

Community After School Program

Many working parents in Oklahoma are having a hard time affording programs to occupy their children while they’re working, according to OklahomaWatch.

Both after-school programs and summer camps can be extremely costly, which means they sometimes aren’t an option for parents struggling to make ends meet.

R.J. Sangosti / The Denver Post

Following a home explosion in Firestone, Colorado last month, a petroleum company is conducting inspections on wells near occupied structures.

As The Greeley Tribune reports, a home in Firestone exploded on April 17 when an abandoned gas return line leaked methane and filled the basement with gas. Two men were killed and one woman was severely injured in the blast.   

Kansas Turnpike Authority

Drivers who use K-Tag transponders to pay tolls in Kansas can now do so in Texas.

At The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the Kansas Turnpike Authority announced last week that drivers who use the K-Tag can also use their state’s toll transponders in Texas. The K=Tag is already accepted in Oklahoma.

Texas drivers can also use their state’s toll transponders in Kansas.

CC0 Public Domain

Kansas superintendents are calling on lawmakers to put more money into a school funding bill.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, several superintendents traveled to Topeka last week to tell the Senate education committee to add more money to Senate Bill 251.

nps.gov

A measure aimed at repealing Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policy was withdrawn by House negotiators Thursday.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, House negotiators withdrew an offer to the Senate for simultaneous votes on nearly full repeal of tax cuts signed five years ago by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

In the waning days of the Texas Legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is playing hardball to get his agenda passed.

As The Texas Tribune reports, Patrick has put out a list of bills he expects the House to pass. If the lower chamber doesn’t comply with his wishes, Patrick says he will direct his Senate to let so-called “must-pass” legislation falter.

This imperative legislation includes the state budget.

Jonathan Baker

Housing demand in Amarillo is outpacing supply, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Jinger White, the chairman of the Amarillo Association of Realtors, says the city has a lower inventory of available homes than he’s seen in his 15 years of selling homes in the Yellow City.

“If you’re selling,” he said, “it’s a good thing. If you’re buying, it’s a bad thing.”

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