News

tOrange.us / Creative Commons

State agencies in Oklahoma are buckling up for a bumpy ride ahead as lawmakers prepare to slash the budget, in order to get the Sooner State’s $900 million budget deficit under control.

As KFOR reports, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has announced that it’s been asked to find a way to cut 15 percent of its budget. In a statement, the DPS said such a drastic cut will place citizens, local law enforcement and state troopers at risk.

Steve Snodgrass / Wikimedia Commons

A bipartisan coalition of Texas lawmakers has proposed a series of reforms that would help poor defendants get out of jail, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Wallethub

In all but six states, women outnumber men. Yet in many areas of the U.S., women are being treated poorly. There are still 19 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and women make up the majority of poor, uninsured adults in those states.  

KCUR

TOPEKA – The Kansas House of Representatives conducted its 11 a.m. session Monday and then recessed until 4:45 p.m. That is intentionally aimed at speeding up procedures for House Bill 2387, which contains sales tax relief for those recovering from the wildfires.

"We want to fast track that bill," House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton said.

Heather Carpenter Costello / Creative Commons

Texas lawmakers are taking aim at a boozy trend that has started to take hold in some Lone Star dentist’s offices.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, some dentists have been offering alcoholic beverages to patients while they wait to be seen. Last week Texas legislators called the new idea “appalling” and “irresponsible.”

Can Technology Help the Ogallala?

Mar 14, 2017
Kansas Geological Survey

Technology made it possible to develop the Ogallala aquifer and turn the High Plains region into the nation’s breadbasket. William Ashworth describes this transition in Ogallala Blue, the High Plains Public Radio community read.  Intense pumping, though, has caused many areas to have large groundwater declines.  Can technology also provide a way to extend and conserve the aquifer into the future?

That is certainly a possibility.  The state water plans for Texas, Kansas and Colorado all propose meeting future water needs, in part, by implementing technology to conserve water today.

MyHighPlains.com

For those Texas Panhandle residents who grumble every autumn when the clocks fall back and the sun suddenly sets shortly after five p.m., help may be on the way.

As MyHighPlains.com reports, three bills have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, all aimed at abolishing daylight savings in the Lone Star State.

ARAH NISHIMUTA / Woodward News

When confronted with the level of tragedy wrought by last week’s wildfires, it is difficult to find a silver lining, but the generosity of others is providing just that.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, residents of Ashland, which was encircled by a fire that has burned over 60 percent of Clark County, Kansas, have been serving up to 600 meals per day to firefighters battling the blaze.

GARY KRAMER / TEXAS WILDLIFE AND PARKS

Beginning Thursday, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) will begin aerial surveys to document population trends of the lesser prairie-chicken in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

As The Prowers Journal reports, The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conduct the surveys annually in areas that contain lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

Legislature grapples with school finance future

Mar 14, 2017

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court gave an “F” to the Legislature for fulfilling its Constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, and some legislators were steamed when they returned to work last week for first time since the March 2 decision.

“There’s nothing that says they’re the supreme authority over us,” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.

Did they make any suggestion whose taxes we should raise? Whitemer asked.

The Supreme Court ruling did not require a specific additional sum or even flatly order more money, although that’s the interpretation.

KHOU

A newly proposed bill in the Texas Legislature would outlaw red light cameras in Texas, reports KHOU.

A hearing was held on the measure, which is known as Bill 88, last week. Some Texas law enforcement agencies showed up to oppose the bill; they say stoplight cameras decrease accidents in the intersections where they’re installed.

However others in Texas, including the largest city in the state, disagree. Houston removed its red light cameras several years ago.

James Gibbard / Tulsa World

A group of Oklahoma residents grew upset last week after a Republican Oklahoma lawmaker asked them to fill out a questionnaire that they described as “hateful.”

As KFOR reports, State Rep. John Bennett greeted three Muslim students who recently visited his office in honor of Muslim Day, a celebration of the Islamic faith at the State Capitol. Bennett responded to the students’ visit by handing them a questionnaire.

Tulsa World

As the United States—and the State of Oklahoma—remain mired in fights over women’s rights in the twenty-first century, The Tulsa World has published a reminder of Oklahoma’s past.

Edward A. Ornelas / Austin American-Statesman

A federal court has ruled that Texas Republican Legislators tried to discriminate against voters of color when they redrew district lines in 2011, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that lawmakers drew a map that intentionally diluted the voting power of Latino and black citizens.

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

Wildfires that have been sweeping across the heart of cattle country since last weekend could decimate some ranchers’ herds. Fires have been reported in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

The largest of the fires spread from the Oklahoma Panhandle into southwest Kansas, and has consumed more than 800,000 acres of prime grassland. Todd Domer, of the Kansas Livestock Association, says the losses have been devastating.

Kansas Senate commitee approves medical marijuana bill

Mar 12, 2017
iStockphoto

A Kansas Senate committee approved a bill Thursday that would allow doctors and physicians to prescribe and dispense “non-intoxicating” cannabinoid medicine, medicine that’s derived from marijuana.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

High Plains wildfires killed countless numbers of pigs, cattle and other livestock last week.

As Reuters reports, a wildfire killed thousands of hogs at Smithfield Foods, Inc.’s hog farm in Laverne, Okla.

Wildfires also killed close to 2,000 hogs at two of Seaboard Foods’ farms south of Perryton, Texas.

About 1.2 million acres burned in the Texas Panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and adjacent parts of southwestern Kansas within a 24-hour period last week.

Kansas Division of Emergency Management

As many of the grassfires in Kansas were brought under control by the end of last week, emergency workers and residents began picking up the pieces in Lane County, where an estimated 18,000 acres burned. An estimated 39,000 acres burned in neighboring Hodgeman and Ness counties.

56 mumps cases being reported in Kansas

Mar 12, 2017
Centers for Disease Control / Wikimedia Commons

56 cases of mumps have been reported in Kansas, prompting the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to urge Kansans to take precautions. 

As The Wichita Eagle reports, 56 mumps cases have been reported in Kansas since March 4.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the cases were reported in Atchison, Barton, Crawford, Douglas, Ellis, Finney, Franklin, Johnson, Marshall, Riley, Rooks and Thomas Counties.

Texas Department of Transportation

“Don’t Mess with Texas” is the phrase that has come to symbolize the Lone Star State, more than any other slogan. It’s a source of pride to the state’s residents, and it’s used by people all over the world to poke fun at the bravado and swagger of Texans. But older Texans will remember when the phrase was merely a slogan used to remind Texans not to litter on the highway.

It's all in the perspective

Mar 10, 2017

Last week I wrote about my gardening efforts to encourage black swallowtail butterflies to lay eggs. My hopes were that these would become caterpillar hordes that would munch my fennel and dill until bare stems remained. We’re almost at the naked stick stage, and I’ve learned that folks don’t always see things my way. We’ve had friends and family drop by to enlighten me about my insect cultivation practices.

Luke Clayton

I truly believe that really great anglers are born with an uncanny ability to catch fish or at least the burning desire to learn how to catch fish.  Stubby Stubblefield who resides on the shores of Lake Fork in east Texas is a good case in point.  “Stubby” spent his time as a touring bass pro in his younger years, guided for years for a variety of species and then, about 12 years ago, decided to slow down and concentrate on catching catfish.

A beautifully tough place to live

Mar 10, 2017
Sarah Nishimuta / Woodward News

It's hard for people who don't make their living on a ranch or farm, growing crops, grassland and cattle to understand how this week's fires have devastated residents here.

Last night I had someone who does not live here call me and try to console me by saying, "Well, ash is good for the grass." All I could say to that was "Wha?"

Lt. Seth Frizzel / Holcomb Community Fire Department

What's being called the Starbuck Fire in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma continued to burn on Thursday.

As ABC News in Amarillo reports, Beaver County Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Shadden said the fire was about 30 miles long and 25 miles wide as of Thursday morning, as crews continued to work on hot spots and flare-ups from the fire.

Lt. Seth Frizzel / Holcomb Community Fire Department

TOPEKA – Legislation is in the works that would provide tax assistance to farmers, ranchers, homeowners and utilities that have suffered losses from wildfires.

“We are working on it right now. We’re working with the Revisor’s to use similar language that we used last year,” said Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

The Rocky Mountains can be blamed for the 50 to 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts that spread an unprecedented number of wildfires in the Sunflower State and other areas of the High Plains region over the past several days.

As the Wichita Eagle reports, low-pressure areas tend to set up just east of major mountain formations and that routinely occurs in eastern Colorado.

Joe Amon / The Denver Post

Farmers are being hailed as heroes in the battle against a northeastern Colorado wildfire that broke out Monday.

As The Denver Post reports, as a wildfire fueled by high winds ripped across farm land northeast of Sterling in Logan County and rapidly approached the small town of Haxtun in Phillips County, farmers from the area drove their tractors to dig fire lines to aid a small army of volunteer firefighters.

Mash them. Hash them. Slice, dice, or fry them. No matter how they're prepared, the potato remains one of the world's most popular side dishes. However, a little research will unearth quite a history.

On this week's edition of Growing on the High Plains, we'll dig up the dirt on this radical root vegetable -- from it's little-known origin story to it's controversial reception across the globe.

Whether whipped into wig dust, carved for a crime, or impaled for juvenile amusement, this shape-shifting spud has certainly seen a lot through its many eyes.

Flickr Creative Commons

Last month was the hottest February on record in Texas, topping every February since record-keeping began in the 19th century, reports The Texas Observer.

This should come as no surprise to West Texans, as some Panhandle counties approached temperatures of 100 degrees in the dead of winter. All-time records were set at weather stations across the state, and this winter is on pace to be the hottest ever in the Lone Star State.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is looking to store water underground, in hopes of staving off future catastrophe.

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