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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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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Highway projects
10:07 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Washington residents go for “Buy Washington” bonds in a big way

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It was a two-day buying frenzy. Retail investors snapped up nearly $90 million in Washington highway bonds Monday and Tuesday. It's the first time in more than 14 years that individual investors have had the chance to buy state bonds ahead of Wall Street.

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Data Center
10:10 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Controversial Washington data center project opens

Washington’s new State Data Center complex on the capitol campus.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The newest building on Washington's capitol campus came in under budget, but nonetheless remains controversial. The doors opened Monday on the office tower portion of a new $300 million data center complex.

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State funds
8:38 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Rent shock at state’s new data center complex

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Construction of Washington's new $300 million data center complex is expected to wrap-up this summer. But as state agencies prepare to move in, the rent per square foot is causing some sticker shock.

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Budget surprises
8:06 am
Mon July 18, 2011

Washington’s litter hotline falls to budget cuts

Washington's litter hotline is no more. The toll free number to report people throwing trash out of their cars has fallen victim to state budget cuts.

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Business
11:16 am
Fri July 15, 2011

Wash. pays JPMorgan more for electronic benefits than other states

OLYMPIA, Wash. – JPMorgan Chase charges Washington approximately 700-thousand dollars a month to issue food and cash welfare benefits via debit card. But public records show Washington is paying a premium compared to other states. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins continues our coverage of Washington’s electronic benefits program.

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Welfare benefits
10:38 am
Thu July 14, 2011

State pays a premium for use of debit card service

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington spends nearly four times what Michigan does to provide food and cash benefits via debit card. That’s just one of the findings in a recent survey of what states are paying large financial institutions to provide welfare benefits electronically.

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Law
8:45 am
Wed July 6, 2011

Report: Former Wash. DOC chief admits to affair with staffer

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s former prisons chief has admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate. And Seattle TV stations are airing video they say shows Eldon Vail leaving a motel with that staffer. Vail resigned suddenly last Friday.

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State prisons
6:26 pm
Mon July 4, 2011

To save money, state deporting some prison inmates early

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington has begun to deport some prison inmates before their sentences are up. The new program is expected to save $2 million a year. But the deportations have immigrant rights advocates concerned.

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