News

CPR / Hart Van Denburg

Colorado’s construction industry continues to thrive, reports Colorado Public Radio. Four out of five construction firms in the state expect to hire more workers this year, according to a new survey by the Associated General Contractors of America. Colorado construction is at higher levels than the national average. 81% of all firms surveyed plan to add workers.

StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are finalizing legal action against an oil company in the state. The “financially strapped” Oklahoma energy company has refused to abandon disposal wells suspected of contributing to earthquakes, reports StateImpact. The company, Sandridge Energy, has been ignoring directives from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to shut down six of its disposal wells.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Wheat is one of the world’s staple foods and a big crop on the Great Plains, but it has been left in the dust. A corn farmer can grow 44 percent more bushels per acre than 30 years ago, but only 16 percent more wheat. That’s led many farmers to make a switch.

Kansas Historical Society / kansasmemory.org

Fans of High Plains history might be interested in a major new biography of George Armstrong Custer, entitled Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of New America. Author T.J. Stiles takes a different approach with his book. He tells Custer’s story up to—but not including—the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

As President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address, NPR will provide live anchored coverage of the speech as well as the Republican response from Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina. NPR's special coverage with All Things Considered host Audie Cornish will start at 9pm EST/6pm PT on Tuesday, January 12. The broadcast special will air on Member Stations across the country (www.npr.org/stations) and be available at NPR.org, along with reports that unfold key issues, live updates and online resources that offer a deeper understanding of the annual speech.

kansascity.com

LAWRENCE – A new funding method for public schools is expected to dominate the debate in the Kansas Legislature this year, and Gov. Sam Brownback will outline his budget and policy priorities during his State of the State address.

High Plains Public Radio’s coverage begins this afternoon, January 12, at 5:30 central time.

This is the first week of the 2016 Kansas legislative session.

The speech will last approximately 30 minutes and will be followed by the Democratic Party response. 

www.kansas.com

The Kansas Highway Patrol has 82 fewer troopers than it did 10 years ago. And Southwest Kansas is suffering the most from a lack of troopers, reports The Wichita Eagle. 20 counties in Western Kansas have no troopers assigned to them. And 16 of those counties are in the southwest part of the state. Kansas is now seeking an increase in vehicle title fees to reverse that trend.

Colorado Public Radio

Consumers are expected to have a great month at the pump, according to Colorado Public Radio. That’s because gas prices are expected to keep falling in January. A report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories. Early this year companies added another eleven million barrels of gasoline. That created the biggest surge in supply since 1993.

Matthew Rutledge / Flickr Creative Commons

In the past, hormone therapy was only available to Texas transgender prisoners who were already undergoing it before they were incarcerated. But now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is making it easier for these prisoners to access hormone therapy. The updated policy took effect in August, reports The Texas Observer. Prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in custody are now eligible to receive treatment.

USDA

Rural High Plains students have a higher chance of graduating these days, reports The Rural Blog. That’s according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 Rural America at a Glance report. The number of rural adults with a four-year college degree has increased by 4 percent since 2000. And the number of rural residents without a high school diploma or GED has decreased by nine percent in the same period.

McRoberts / USFWS

Healthy rangelands help the long-term sustainability of the landowner and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Practices that bolster the bird's habitat are also good for ranching, and can lead to improved rangeland health. NRCS provides technical and cost-assistance for grazing management programs under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.

Billy Hathorn / Texas Tribune

Texas’s new open carry law is making headlines and causing controversy. But there’s one place you might not expect the battle to play out: at your local zoo. According to The Texas Tribune, that’s because zoos are funded through private foundations but located on public property. That means the laws are hazy for zoos if they want to keep firearms off their property.

Andy Marso / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Program will expand to serve youths aging out of foster care.

In an announcement that was heavy on optimism but light on details, the Kansas Department for Children and Families introduced a mentoring program for families receiving cash assistance.

zippia.com

When it comes to a healthy work-life balance, Garden City, Kansas, has it pretty good. Zippia.com recently ranked the cities in Kansas with the best work-life balance, and Garden City tops the list. Rounding out the top five were Hillsboro, Hesston, Olathe, and Derby.

Making Energy from Waste: The Other Natural Gas

Jan 11, 2016
Rebecca Jacobson / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Every day, a facility on the outskirts of Grand Junction, Colorado takes in 8 million gallons of what people have flushed down their toilets and washed down their sinks. The water coming out the other end of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant is cleaner than the Colorado River it flows into. The organic solids strained from that water are now serving a new purpose - producing fuel for city vehicles.

cubakansas.com

I’ve grown up hearing America called the melting pot of the world. If you spend time traveling Kansas, then you understand the Sunflower State is the biggest bubble in that boiling mess. In a few hours’ time, travelers can visit Lebanon, Denmark, Norway, and Cuba. During that journey, drivers can drop south to Glasco, named for Glasgow, Scotland. Kansas is a state of many cultures, evidenced not only by town names but also by buildings designed to honor old-country customs.

Luke Clayton

Hello Folks!

The last buck of the season brought a big surprise to this ole boy.  I was set up in my ground blind, the last day of deer season, the last hours of the day, when movement caught my eye.  And, there was a big ole tom bobcat.  I thought he'd just look around, and then go on his way, but the rascal headed right for the door of my blind.  He was about six feet away when I shut the door.  There simply was not enough room for ole Luke and that cat in the blind.

That really got me going!

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images

With all the turmoil surrounding abortion rights in this country, sometimes it’s helpful to take a global view of things. The Guardian reports that, when it comes to accessibility of abortions, the U.S. falls somewhere in the middle. For example, it’s easier for a woman to get an abortion in Texas than it is in Northern Ireland. In Greece, however, abortions can be carried out on demand up to a limit of 12 weeks. 

Anthony Inswasty / Wikimedia Commons

Gas prices are expected to remain low this year, according to Colorado Public Radio. The average price at the pump is expected to range from $2.25 to $2.45 a gallon.

In 2015, crude oil prices fell by more than a third. The going rate for a barrel of crude currently sits at around $38. The continuing low gas prices are a result of the persistent low cost of oil.

Crude prices, too, are expected to remain low for much of the year.

KFOR.com

Last week’s cluster of earthquakes in Edmond, Oklahoma, have revealed a previously unknown fault line, according to NewsOK. This new information could mean more earthquakes in the future, says seismologist Daniel McNamara. Researchers have been using oil and gas industry data to identify previously undocumented fault lines in the state. But sometimes faults are revealed when a series of earthquakes fire off with epicenters in a linear pattern. This is what happened last week in Edmond.

Susie Fagan / KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

A Lawrence businesswoman has become somewhat of a poster child for the Affordable Care Act.

Meg Heriford, owner of the Ladybird Diner, didn’t seek the spotlight but has been thrust into the role by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

Sebelius, who also served two terms as Kansas governor, still has a home in the state as well as one in Washington, D.C.

KanCare.ks.gov

Three years ago the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback privatized Kansas’s $3 billion Medicaid system and named it KanCare. Since then, the program has been the subject of a great deal of criticism. Last week a number of individuals testified before the joint House and Senate oversight committee, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. Those who spoke before the committee provided “unvarnished critiques” of the program.

ApartmentList.com

According to the new rental report on ApartmentList.com, Texas rental growth is still on par with the nation overall. In Texas, apartment rental rates are now up over the last year by around 3 percent. The average price of a one bedroom in Texas is $1000. For a two bedroom, it’s $1070.

Addison is Texas’s most expensive city, with a median two bedroom price of $1740. Dallas is second.

Public Domain

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. In celebration, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado is waiving its admission fees for all of 2016. Starting last week, the national park will be free to all visitors. “We think of this as a gift to both the traveling public and local folks,” said Park Superintendent Alexa Roberts. She added, “It seems like a great way [for] those from the local area who have not visited recently to reconnect with the national park here in their own backyard.”

John Hanna / AP photo

Unemployment is down and wages are up in Kansas. But one sector is struggling. Corrections officers are leaving the state in large numbers because of low pay, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. The exodus has triggered a public safety crisis. Legislators are grappling with the issue on top of trying to fix the state’s budget crisis. Starting pay for Kansas corrections officers is 33 percent lower than the state’s average hourly wage of just over $20.

Kansas City Star

Kansas hepatitis C patients who drink alcohol or stop using their medications could be in trouble, reports The Kansas City Star. A Kansas legislative panel recommended last week that these Hep C patients should lose their Medicaid coverage. The KanCare Oversight Committee also recommended that the state health department use “step therapy.” This is a process that requires Medicaid patients to try cheaper treatments first and receive more expensive treatments only if the other medicines fail.

An Awesome Autumn

Jan 6, 2016
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

A look back to the past year brought grateful thoughts and many thanks for the abundant rainfall that helped make autumn 2015 a blaze of foliage and color.  And a review of some old-fashioned weather forecasting observations brings some humor and perhaps a bit of truth to the outlook for the months ahead.  

Joe Amon / The Denver Post

A couple of weeks ago more than 200 Muslim workers walked off their jobs at a Cargill meat plant in eastern Colorado. Now the vast majority of those workers have been fired, reports The Denver Post.

Penn State/pennstatenews / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma women working full time in 2014 earned about 78 percent of their male counterparts, reports NewsOK. The data comes from estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There was no improvement from last year’s ratio, which was also 78 percent. Oklahoma has a worse percentage than the nation overall. In the U.S., women's median weekly pay was about 82 percent of the pay for men.

Joe Raedle / Newsmakers

Last Thursday marked a historic day for the Texas oil and gas industry, reports Bloomberg. The first U.S. shipment of crude oil to an overseas buyer departed Corpus Christi last week.

Pages