Jonathan Baker

News Curator

Jonathan Baker recently returned to the High Plains from New York City, where he was the assistant to the editor-in-chief at W. W. Norton & Co. At Norton, Baker worked with a wide variety of authors, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Lewis and Larry McMurtry. During his time in publishing, Baker worked on books that were shortlisted for a National Book Award and a Booker Prize, and Norton was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in History.

A former professional comedian, Baker has performed all over the United States and appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He holds an undergraduate degree in English with a History minor from West Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago. At UChicago, Baker focused on American literature but studied a wide range of topics, from architectural history to 19th-century landscape painting to the history of the natural sciences. His master’s thesis was on glaciers and ice age theory in the Victorian Era.

When not curating stories for High Plains Public Radio, Baker writes advertisements for publications like Esquire and Car & Driver. He also writes crime novels. Baker just finished his fourth book, a murder story set on the barren Texas plains.

Baker is the father of a 12-year-old boy, Inigo. They live in Canyon, Texas, in a tiny wooden house, where they watch a lot of cheesy old horror movies.   

KFOR

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is growing  frustrated with the slow pace of criminal justice reform in her state.

As KFOR reports, last week Fallin lamented the fact that 10 separate criminal-justice bill had failed to make it to her desk.

Cassandra Pollock/Alexa Ura / Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers finally approved a budget this weekend, but the news was overshadowed by the rancorous issue of rights for trans Texans. This session, the so-called “bathroom bill” that targets transgender citizens has dominated the headlines. As of Saturday the Legislature remains locked in a stalemate over the matter, reports The Texas Tribune.

NewsOK.com

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The threat of the Zika virus is likely to return to Texas this summer, and, as KUT reports, one of the biggest difficulties health experts are coming up against is a gap in knowledge among citizens. A recent study conducted by the University of Texas’s Medical Branch has found that many vulnerable Texas women aren’t aware of their risk for infection.

Robert Cheaib / Flickr Creative Commons

Texas is considering officially putting a stop to underage marriage in the state, reports The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Texas currently has the second highest child marriage rate in the country; only West Virginia has a higher rate. The legal age to marry in Texas is 14 with parental consent, and lawmakers say many young girls in Texas are forced into marrying older men by their parents.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

For years Oklahoma’s oil companies have insisted they’re missing out on huge profits due to a law that prevents horizontal drilling more than a mile long. Producers have tantalized state lawmakers with indications that altering the law would fill the state’s coffers—an attractive proposition giving the state’s budget gap of almost $900 million.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a measure that would prevent doctors from vaccinating foster children—even when those vaccinations would prevent them from later getting cervical cancer.

Ilana Panich-Linsman / The New York Times

Five years ago, Texas lost out on millions of federal dollars when it banned Planned Parenthood from participating in a program to help low-income women. Now, as The New York Times reports, Texas is asking the Feds if they can have the money back that they lost out on through that decision.

The state is asking the Trump administration for almost half a billion dollars that it would have received half a decade ago if it had acknowledged Planned Parenthood.

KXAN

Sending messages and surfing the web while driving may soon be illegal across the entire state of Texas, reports KXAN.

Advocates for a ban on texting while driving say they’ve brought enough lawmakers on board in the state legislature, and now they want Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to bring the matter to the Senate floor for a vote.

KWTV

The Oklahoma Senate has passed a budget bill that lawmakers say will bring in $510 million dollars’ worth of revenue, reports News 9.

The measure would rescind tax breaks for the wind and oil industries, contributing to the projected income. Some of the money would also be generated by new fuel and cigarette taxes.

NewsOK.com

According to a new study, life expectancies in some parts of Oklahoma are growing at a more rapid pace than in others.

NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma Panhandle has exhibited a marked increase in life expectancy since 1980, showing a gain of between four and five percent, one of the strongest surges in the state.

Kansas City Star

Donald Trump has chosen Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to co-chair his new “Commission on Election Integrity,” and civil rights groups are infuriated, reports The Kansas City Star.

Like the President, Kobach has produced headlines by making unsupported claims about illegal voting. Now Kobach will be partly in command of the investigation into Trump’s questionable claims that millions voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Lindsay Pierce / The Denver Post

The United Health Foundation has released its rankings of the healthiest and least healthy states for seniors, and the results show Colorado seniors to be much healthier than their counterparts in other states in the HPPR listening area.

NASA / Public Domain/Atlas Obscura

Feral hogs have been in the news as of late, as Texas continues to struggle with the scourge of millions of wild pigs and the damage they cause.

There was the so-called “Hog Apocalypse,” proposed by Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, who wanted to distribute poisoned bait across the state to kill the oinkers. Hunters and environment groups raised a ruckus, and the scheme has now been put on hold while a state district judge thinks it over.

okhouse.gov

An Oklahoma state Congressman is making national headlines with his controversial plan to make a dent in the state’s $900 billion budget hole.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

Tensions in the Texas Legislature have been simmering this session, as the moderate leadership in the state House of Representatives has clashed with more conservative factions within their own rank and file, as well as the staunchly right-wing Senate of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Austin American-Statesman

The firing of FBI director James Comey by President Trump continues to dominate news cycles nationwide. The Austin American-Statesman took a look this week at how Texas politicians reacted to the director’s dismissal.

Sen. Ted Cruz threw his support behind the White House, saying he believed the move was justified as “Mr. Comey had lost the confidence of both Republicans and Democrats, and frankly, the American people.”

Creative Commons

Law enforcement can be a thankless job. Even so, there are almost a million cops in America, most of whom work diligently to protect their communities.

The personal finance website Wallethub has produced a list of the best and worst states to be a police officer.

Editor5807 / Creative Commons

A new reports shows that bad roads in Oklahoma are costing taxpayers $5 billion annually.

As News 9 reports, the study by the national transportation group TRIP finds that Oklahomans currently spend almost $2 billion dollars on fixing their cars. Another billion is spent on traffic accidents, and the state sees yet another $2 billion in lost productivity yearly, due to traffic jams and delays.

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