News

Andy Cross / The Denver Post

The solar capacity of the state of Colorado increased by 70 percent last year, reports The Denver Post.

That may seem like an impressive leap forward—and it is—but Colorado’s solar ranking among states actually fell last year. That’s because other states increased their capacity even more than the Centennial State.

WFAA

Retired Teachers in Texas will soon take a big hit when it comes to healthcare costs, reports WFAA.

Beginning in September, educators who have reached retirement in Texas will pay double or even triple their current healthcare premiums.

LM Otero / Houston Chronicle

The upper chamber of the Texas Legislature has approved a series of changes to the state’s controversial photo voter ID law, to bring the legislation in line with a federal ruling, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Last year an appeals court declared that Republican legislators intentionally enacted the law to discriminate toward minorities. This week the GOP-led Senate voted 21-10 to approve the changes ordered by the Feds.

Lt. Seth Frizzell / Holcomb Community Fire Department

Many scientists believe there will be more and more days of weather that puts Kansas at risk of wildfires.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, although scientists can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change, the extreme weather the past two years in Kansas is consistent with climate change models, says Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Canada.

CC0 Public Domain

Colorado livestock could be eating hemp as early as next year, thanks to a bill directing the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study the use of industrial hemp in animal feed.

As The Greeley Tribune reports, the study would be headed by the commissioner of agriculture and would result in a recommendation by the end of the year.

Lee Winder / Creative Commons

The Texas House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would encourage schools to offer mental health services.

Ella's Dad / Creative Commons

The Texas Senate has put the statewide pre-K program on the chopping block, reports KXAN.

The most recent Senate budget plan shows significant funding cuts for the pre-K grant proposal, which is backed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The grant plan was initiated two years ago, after lawmakers declared state prekindergarten funding to be in a state of emergency. The Governor’s grants would put well over $100 million toward high-quality Pre-K across Texas.

Culture and Water in Dune

Mar 27, 2017
J. Stephen Conn (2009) / PhotosForClass.com

Welcome to High Plains Radio Readers Book club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of Water and Replenishment in our Book Club Series. Rediscovering an epic science fiction title, Dune, written in 1965 by Frank Herbert.

Book I of Dune sets the scene of the political volatile environment between the Houses, specifically the Atreides House. Events of Barron’s well thought out plan to annihilate the Atreides House thickens the plot, and yet main character, Paul Atreides is a greater threat than the Barron is willing to consider. Barron’s perfect plan hinges on a traitor in the Atreides House, a traitor who becomes a wild card and this takes place on a desert planet caked Arrakis, a.k.a. Dune.

Creative Commons

A school finance proposal that would boost funding by more than $75 million is going to fall short of what the Kansas Supreme Court views as adequate.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the court ruled earlier this month that the state was not providing an adequate education to all Kansas students and gave the Kansas Legislature until June 30 to come up with a new school finance formula.

CC0 Public Domain

Over the next couple of weeks, much of the country is expected to see above-average precipitation, a welcome sight for many farmers, particularly those in the fire-ravaged High Plains.

Courtesy / Seward County

Much-needed rain, along with a community effort by farmers and area fire departments helped control another Kansas wildfire that broke out in Seward County on Thursday.

The 2,500-acre fire is now contained, according to a post by Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Seward County Fire Rescue responded to a grass fire at about 5 p.m. in the area of Road P and Highway 54.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Voting rights advocates are asking courts to ensure that Texas congressional voting districts will be drawn more fairly before the 2018 midterm elections, reports The Texas Tribune.

KFOR

Oklahoma may lose its last insurer on the healthcare marketplace next year, reports KFOR. The number of insurers on the Oklahoma exchange has fallen after several carriers sustained significant losses.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak noted the “absence of legislative action to create a solution that can restore the stability of our health insurance system.”

The HPPR Living Room Concert Series is pleased to present: TERRI HENDRIX & LLOYD MAINES, live in Amarillo on Earth Day!

Saturday, April 22nd

Chamber Music Amarillo's Fibonacci Space (3306 SW 6th Ave.)

Doors @ 7p | Show @ 7:30p — Sugg. Donation: $15

RSVP online here, or call Jenny at 806-367-9088.

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Irish in Kansas

Mar 24, 2017
Creative Commons CC0

A childhood friend recently posted the title of this column on her Facebook page as a meme. It made me smile as I thought about the latest St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Even those who don’t have a drop of old  Ireland in them enjoy celebrating with corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, green beer, Irish parades, shamrocks, or leprechaun tales. This adoption of Irish customs, even temporarily, is a recent occurrence. In the mid to late 1800s, those of Irish heritage found more heartache than ready acceptance.

Luke Clayton

Will Herring is on the cutting edge of the procedures that are being put in place in Austin, Texas to stop the nonsense of introducing poison into our woods and waters to kill hogs.

The legislative wheels are turning in Austin and there is a tremendous amount of support against Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller's proposed use of rat killer as a means of controlling hogs.

Herring gives us an up to date account of the situation from Austin.  

Brownback signs sales tax break for fence-rebuilding

Mar 24, 2017
Mary Clarkin / The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday granting a sales tax exemption for rural fencing supplies and services purchased by wildfire victims.

“It doesn’t make up for what they’ve lost, but it’s a way that we can help ease the recovery for hardworking farmers and ranchers,” Brownback said at an afternoon ceremony in the Statehouse.

April Showers

Mar 24, 2017
Janet Huelskamp - Fowler, KS

Hello, Radio Readers! Where have the books in our spring series Water and Replenishment been taking you?

Me? Well, talking about these books have made for some fantastic conversations! One example: some friends and I were noticing surprising similarities between Milagro Beanfield War and Dune. Sure, one is set in northern New Mexico almost 50 years ago while the other takes place on a desert planet 20,000 years in the future. But both show the ways that limiting access to a limited resource empowers a few and deprives many. William Ashworth’s 2006 Ogallah Blue: Water and Life on the High Plains documents the consequences of certain entrenched beliefs that some have a greater right to, a greater need of, water than others. Listen to the questions he asks: “should underground water be a public resource, as it is in six of eight High Plain states, or should it belong to the owner of the overlying earth, as in Oklahoma, or to no one, as in Texas?” He also wonders whether a standard of “beneficial use” should be applied when pumping ground water. Who defines that standard? Who resolves conflicts between competing needs?  These are the same questions at the heart of the fictional Milagro Beanfield War and of Dune, right?

William Brawley / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma saw four more flu-related deaths this week, according to the Oklahoma State Health Department.

As The Oklahoman reports, that brings the statewide total for flu deaths since last September up to 68. The state has also seen more than 2,100 Oklahomans hospitalized due to influenza since the beginning of this flu season. The most recent deaths occurred in Oklahoma, Cherokee, Kay, and Tulsa counties.

Bob Daemmerich / The Texas Tribune

Yesterday the Texas Senate Education Committee passed legislation to open the door to what has become known as “School Choice.” As The Texas Tribune reports, the new bill would pay tax dollars to  parents, to be used for private school tuition and homeschooling expenses.

The bill passed by a vote of 7-3, with the Republicans on the committee voting in favor. The measure will now head to the full Senate, where it’s also expected to pass. The legislation has long been a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Jeroen Bennink / Flickr Creative Commons

Hackers have gained access to the records of hundreds of thousands of jobseekers who used an employment website run by the State of Oklahoma, reports NewsOK.

The security breach occurred on the website OKJobMatch.com, and authorities say 430,000 people’s information may have been compromised. The hacked information includes names, birthdays and Social Security numbers.

Shelley Zumwalt, a spokeswoman in the Gov. Mary Fallin's office, said anyone who’s ever accessed the site is probably vulnerable.

Tim Drivas / Creative Commons

A train-hopping runaway adolescent showed up in Dumas, Texas, this week, complaining that she’d run out of candy.

As The Denver Post reports, 13-year-old Adelie Rivera, a resident of Lubbock, was on vacation in Colorado with her family when she decided to shed the shackles of bourgeois life and hop a freight car to freedom.

Unfortunately, Rivera had failed to supply her hobo sack with a sufficient supply of Skittles.

Nothing dampens winter doldrums like that first purple peeper pushing up through your still-chilly garden or yard. (Or maybe she's white or gold?)

Whatever petals she's pushing, the first crocus remains an annual celebration of the hope and promise of the lush Spring to come.   

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains takes a long look at these punctual pals. With their knack for tackling the gale-force gusts and dry climate of our region, there's no denying the mighty crocus will ever emerge triumphant -- especially in the hearts of the winter weary.

Austin American-Statesman

A new lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton could open the door for nuclear waste storage in the Lone Star State.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, Paxton is suing the federal government to force a decision on whether Texas can store high-level radioactive waste within its borders.

David Koehn / NET News

“For most of our trafficking victims this is kind of where we're going to start,” says Jamie Manzer, as she gives a tour of the SASA (Spouse Abuse Sexual Assault) Crisis Center, where she worked until recently.

SASA helps survivors of domestic and sexual violence. That includes women being trafficked: sold against their will for sex. Like a lot of social service agencies, the SASA office used to be something else, but they’ve made the best out of oddly shaped space and rooms.

Lindsey Bauman

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that more than $6 million in funding is now available for those affected by the wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The funding, delivered through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, will assist farmers and ranchers as they attempt to restore grazing lands, rehabilitate devastated landscapes, rebuild fencing and protect damaged watersheds, according to a news release.

Oklahoma Watch

While legislators in Washington are mired in the process of deciding whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers in Oklahoma are devising their own plan that could affect coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans.

Conserving Water in Hays, Kansas

Mar 22, 2017
JASON RIEGEL / City of Hays, Kansas

Ogallala Blue, Water and Life on the High Plains explains how groundwater mining of the Ogallala has become a way of life. How much water do we urban folk utilize, and what can we do to reduce groundwater usage?  Fortunately, a modal to answer this question exists in Ellis County, KS, the only KS County having more than 15,000 population, too dry to rely on surface water supplies and lacking a substantial aquifer.

For the 20,000 citizens of Hays Kansas, located in Ellis County, retaining a quality life has meant water conservation.  Comparisons by USGS of City average per capita water usage in gallons from 2009 to 2013 measures Hay’s water efficiency: Colby 294 gpc, Goodland  283, Garden City: 204, Liberal 188, Dodge City 175 and Hays 93 gpc.

HPPR's Living Room Concert Series presents The DustJackets - TWO SHOWS! (Garden City & St. Francis)

Shows @ 7p ~ Suggested donation: $15

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FIRST SHOW: Friday, April 14 @ HPPR Studios - Garden City, KS

RSVP HERE FOR GARDEN CITY!

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The Oklahoman

Undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma have evidently become so frightened that many have stopped attending church, citing dread of being deported should they appear in public.

Members of the clergy recently told The Oklahoman that they’ve seen a drop in attendance since news of deportations have spread across the country.

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