Kirk Siegler

Kirk Siegler is a reporter for NPR's National Desk. In this role he covers Southern California and the West from NPR West's studios in Culver City, CA.

Since joining the national desk in December of 2012, Siegler has covered everything from a dock worker strike at the nation's largest port to an unprecedented manhunt for an ex-LAPD officer wanted for a string of vengeance killings. He's also contributed extensively to the network's coverage on the ongoing national conversation about guns; assignments that have taken him from Newtown, CT, to an inner-city Los Angeles hospital's trauma ward, to rural Wyoming.

Siegler has won numerous Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press Awards for his coverage of Environmental, Political and Business issues in Montana and Colorado. Siegler was a 2010 Science Literacy Project fellow at the University of California-Berkeley and most recently he completed the 2012 Knight/MIT "Food Boot Camp" Fellowship.

Prior to joining NPR, Siegler spent seven years reporting from Colorado, where he became a familiar voice to NPR listeners reporting from Denver for NPR Member Station KUNC. He also spent two years as a reporter and news director at Aspen Public Radio. Siegler got his start in reporting in 2003 covering the Montana Legislature for Montana Public Radio.

Siegler has spent much of his adult life living in the West. He grew up in Missoula, MT and received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Colorado in Boulder. He is an avid skier and enjoys traveling and visiting his family scattered across the globe.

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It's been nearly a year since Colorado made recreational marijuana legal, and since then, pot has become a billion-dollar business in the state. And some growers have made it a mission to make it legitimate and mainstream.

"Change the face," says pot entrepreneur Brooke Gehring. "But really, not to be the stereotype of what they think is stoner culture, but to realize they are true business people that are operating these companies."

Ask Northern California sheep rancher Dan Macon what this drought is doing to his pocketbook and he'll break it down for you real quick.

"It's like if you woke up one morning and lost 40 percent of the equity in your house," he says. "Our primary investment in our ranch is in these sheep and we just sold 40 percent of our stock."

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Colorado is one of the battleground states where Republicans made big gains this week. Republicans in the state believe they now have momentum going into the 2016 presidential election.

But the GOP has suffered some punishing losses there lately, owing in part to the state's changing demographics. That trend may still be a big factor in 2016.

The last time Republicans won a U.S. Senate seat here was when Wayne Allard was re-elected in 2002. Back then, Congressman and now Senator-elect Cory Gardner was a young staffer working behind the scenes for Allard.

Think of California's Santa Barbara County and you might picture the area's famous beaches or resorts and wineries. But in the northern reaches of the vast county, oil production has been a major contributor to the economy for almost a century.

So it's no surprise that the oil industry there is feverishly organizing to fight a local ballot initiative — Measure P — that would ban controversial drilling methods such as hydraulic fracturing. What is turning heads, however, is the sheer volume of money flooding into this local race, mainly from large oil companies.

The past few years have been California's driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm.

The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn't, like farms and cities.

In California's rural Central Valley, a candidate's identity means everything in politics. Just take the race between first-term Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democrat Amanda Renteria for the state's 21st Congressional District seat, which is attracting some unusual attention this fall.

In a midterm election year where immigration remains a thorny subject, both Valadao and Renteria talk openly about the need for Congress to pass the stalled comprehensive reform bill.

For the first time in nearly two decades, federal money is beginning to flow into gun violence research. And there's growing momentum behind creating a reliable national reporting database for firearm injuries and deaths.

On the front lines at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, one of the top trauma hospitals on the West Coast, researchers like Dr. Demetrios Demetriades hope to get a better picture of the scope of the problem, so states can better target their prevention programs.

Steel mills, unions and the Democratic Party have defined politics in Pueblo, Colo., for decades. But that doesn't discourage George Rivera.

"When we look at values, when we look at who we are, especially as Hispanics, our values tend to be conservative," Rivera says.

Rivera, a retired deputy police chief, is going door to door for votes in a neighborhood east of downtown, near where he grew up. Last summer, he unseated local Democrat Angela Giron in the state Legislature, in a high-profile recall election that focused on guns.

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After cancelling a string of campaign events and fundraisers this week, Montana Democrat John Walsh announced Thursday that he would drop out of the race for the U.S. Senate.

"I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," Walsh said in a statement. "You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will."

He will serve out the remainder of his Senate term, which expires in Jan. 2015.

At the Utah State Capitol, a mural of Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers brings some color to the building's spartan rotunda. Beneath it is a more modern sculpture — a woman walking forward with her son, who's holding a globe.

Underneath the statue are the words "Immigration and Settlement." The symbolism isn't lost on state House Speaker Becky Lockhart.

"Utah is a place that understands the value of immigration, the value of peoples coming to find a better life," she says, pointing up at the sculpture.

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Anti-illegal immigration activists are planning several hundred protests in cities across the country on Friday and Saturday, part of a growing backlash against the federal government's efforts to temporarily house migrant children detained at the border.

Protesters say they are concerned about safety, as the Obama administration pushes to move detainees from Texas to shelters run by nonprofits in other states.

Labor tensions are high at the largest port complex in the country — Los Angeles and Long Beach — which handles nearly half of all the cargo coming into the United States.

Short-haul truck drivers are striking. They're the independent, contract truckers who bring the containers off the ships to nearby warehouses for companies like Wal-Mart and Costco. At the twin ports, their numbers hover around 10,000.

Independent truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on strike against three large trucking firms that operate at the ports.

Handling almost half of all the nation's cargo, the ports of Los Angles and Long Beach are the main gateway for imports from Asia.

A lot of the shipping containers end up on these idling trucks. The short-haul truckers bring the goods from here to nearby rail yards and distribution centers for companies like Costco, Forever 21 and Skechers.

"We're in this to win," says truck driver Byron Contrerras.

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As the saying goes, all politics is local. And that couldn't have been clearer this week in and around Murrieta, Calif., a sleepy conservative enclave 60 miles north of San Diego.

Local leaders here made a loud stand against the planned movement of immigrant detainees to their city from overcrowded U.S. Border Patrol stations in Texas — and in the process rather purposefully thrust their city into the national political spotlight.

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And I am Renee Montagne. Here in California today, a controversial gun control bill gets its first hearing. It was introduced in the wake of last month's mass murder near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: When California lawmakers began debate today, expect the case of Elliott Rodger to come back into focus.

Cliven Bundy's ranch is just a few miles off Interstate 15 in southern Nevada, near the tiny town of Bunkerville. The dirt road that gets you there snakes through a hot and forlorn patch of desert. You know you've found it when you see a spray-painted sign for Bundy Melons.

"What we say is, we raise cows and melons and kids. That's what we do here," says Bundy, smiling as he hoses down a dusty sidewalk that leads into the family's ranch house.

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It's been a little more than a year since San Jose, Calif., increased the city's minimum wage by $2 per hour, with adjustments for inflation. Now at $10.15 an hour, it's one of the state's highest.

Back in 2012, as voters were debating the wage hike, some in the restaurant and hospitality industry warned that an increase would be bad for the sector. It would deter new businesses from opening, they said, and would cause existing businesses to slash hours for employees.

So how are San Jose's businesses faring today? The answer is, it depends.

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