Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Austin Jenkins, KPLU’s and N3’s Olympia Reporter, has been covering the Washington State Legislature and regional public policy issues since 2004. Prior to becoming a public radio reporter, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise – to name just a few of his stops. Austin grew up in Seattle and is a graduate of Connecticut College. Austin’s memorable moment in public radio: “There are too many to pick just one: Covering Washington’s contested 2004 gubernatorial election, flying in an Army Reserve Chinook helicopter to the top of Mt. Rainier, spending 24-hours on a tug boat on the Snake River, the list goes on.”  You can also track all the current events at Washinton's capitol on Austin's blog, The Washington Ledge.

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State liquor sales
5:35 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Wash. prepares to accept bids to privatize liquor distribution

While Washington is figuring out how to judge a quality bid for distributing liquor, voters in 2012 could make the entire system private.
Chris Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The state of Washington is getting ready to accept bids from private companies to take over the distribution of liquor. One question: how to evaluate the financial promises the bidders make.

This was a key topic Tuesday as state leaders met in advance of the formal bid process that’s about to get underway.

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Military deaths
4:38 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

Another Washington airman dies in motorcycle accident

For the fourth time since April, an active duty member of the military has died in a high-speed motorcycle crash in western Washington. All of the victims were riding high-performance bikes known for giving their riders a dose of adrenaline.

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State prisons
5:01 pm
Fri August 26, 2011

Wash. prisons ask Facebook to disable inmate accounts

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington prison officials are following California's lead. This month they asked social media giant Facebook to agree to disable active inmate accounts.

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Law
4:56 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

State prison system prepares for convicted killer Isaiah Kalebu

Corrections Lt. Jeff Sanders Shows Off The Inside Of The “Special Transport” Van Used For High-Risk Inmates
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

SHELTON, Wash. – The recent murder trial in Seattle of Isaiah Kalebu made headlines for the brutality of his crime – the rape and butcher knife attack of two women in their home that left one of them dead.

But the trial also attracted attention because of Kalebu’s volatile outbursts in court and suicide attempts. Now he’s headed to prison – for life.

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Gay rights
4:25 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Washington gay marriage proponents eye 2012

An influential Washington state senator says 2012 could be the year he and others try to pass a gay marriage bill in the legislature. 

Openly gay Seattle Democrat Ed Murray says New York state's recent approval of gay marriage is creating some momentum in Washington.

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Washington law
5:16 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Suspended drivers given help to get back on the road, legally

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Nearly 300,000 Washington drivers currently have suspended licenses because they failed to pay their traffic tickets. The Department of Licensing on Monday introduced a new tool to help them get their licenses back.

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Law
11:58 am
Wed August 17, 2011

Family of Lakewood officer Griswold joins litigation against state

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The family of slain Lakewood police officer Tina Griswold has filed a notice to sue the state of Washington over its handling of Maurice Clemmons. He's the Arkansas parolee who gunned down Griswold and three of her fellow officers in a coffee shop in 2009. Clemmons was later shot dead by Seattle police.

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Insurance fight
11:50 am
Wed August 17, 2011

Regence BlueShield fined $100,000 over IUD removal

OLYMPIA, Wash. – One of Washington’s largest health insurers faces a hefty fine for refusing to pay for the removal of a certain type of birth control device.

Regence BlueShield will pay a $100,000 penalty for improperly denying claims from nearly 1,000 women. The women had their IUDs removed because the device was outdated or they wanted to try to have a baby.

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Health care reform
9:42 am
Fri August 5, 2011

New rules for insuring state's poor cause flurry of competition

Dr. Peggy Eaton sees low-income patients at a community health clinic in Seattle.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

"There's a lot of courting going on ..."

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In Washington, there are more people on Medicaid than there are kids in public school – 1.2 million. And that number will grow significantly in 2014 when the new federal health care overhaul kicks-in.

The expansion has triggered a high-stakes competition for state contracts to provide Medicaid coverage.

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Soldier deaths
4:54 pm
Tue August 2, 2011

Police investigating two apparent soldiers suicides in recent weeks

Police in Lakewood, Wash., are investigating the apparent suicides of two soldiers from the nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord in recent weeks. In both cases, police say the soldiers shot themselves in the presence of someone else.

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Unemployment
10:51 am
Mon August 1, 2011

Washington still issues unemployment benefits the old fashioned way

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In this era of plastic, Washington still issues unemployment benefits the old fashioned way: by check. That's a stark contrast to neighboring Oregon where jobless benefits are loaded on a debit card. So what are the trade-offs?

Currently in Washington about 180,000 people are receiving unemployment. Half of them are signed up for direct deposit.

The rest get a check in the mail. It costs the state 45 cents to issue each check – most of that is postage.

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Law
2:49 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Wash. prisons fined for safety violations after officer murder

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Lapses in training and “serious” safety violations may have contributed to the murder of a Washington correctional officer earlier this year. Those are the findings of a six month investigation by Washington’s workplace safety watchdog.

The agency issued citations and fines Wednesday against the Department of Corrections.

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Traffic Deaths
5:34 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

Motorcycle crashes claim three NW soldiers since April

The scene of an accident between Sgt. Tyler Huber's Suzuki GSXR 1000 and a car near Puyallup, Wash.
Courtesy Washington State Patrol

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Three Washington-based soldiers have been killed in high-speed motorcycle accidents since April. And it turns out all three were riding the same model of high performance bike. The Washington State Patrol says the accidents were horrific and avoidable.

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Law
12:13 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

Nearly 300,000 Wash. drivers suspended for failure to pay tickets

Relicensing court client Brandon Stowers is trying to get his driver’s license back after not paying multiple traffic tickets.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

BURIEN, Wash. – In Washington, nearly 300,000 drivers currently have suspended licenses – not because they've driven drunk or committed a hit-and-run, but because they failed to pay their traffic tickets.

You're about to meet three of them. Like a lot of people in their situation, they continued to drive. And that has led to more tickets, more debt and even jail.

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Law
4:35 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Alleged "kill team" leader back in court

Pvt. Jeremy Morlock's testimony has become crucial to the prosecution's case.
Courtesy of the U.S. Army

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The credibility of the prosecution's star witness is the key issue at the moment in a war crimes case unfolding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. A second pre-trial hearing got underway Thursday for the alleged ringleader of a group of Washington-based soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians.

This second hearing is a chance for the defense to call witnesses who were not previously available. Chief among them: Army Private Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska.

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