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.

Pages

Washington State Legislature
10:51 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Lawmakers consider ideas to limit rising debt

It's raining debt in Olympia, and state lawmakers are looking at ways to put limits on it.
AP

Washington's total debt load is twice the national median – and one of the highest in the nation. That's the warning from the State Treasurer. Now lawmakers are considering two proposals to cap how much Washington can borrow for capital construction projects.

Read more
Immigrant Licenses
8:17 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Legislature considers two-tier driver's license system

A two-tier driver's license system is getting traction in the legislature. This is how it would work: applicants who provide a valid social security number would get a regular license. Drivers who can't prove they are in this country legally would get an alternative version.

Read more
Liquor Laws
8:10 am
Thu February 17, 2011

Despite initiative defeat, Costco still pushing liquor privatization

A shopper holds up a bottle of wine from a large selection at a Costco warehouse store.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Voters defeated not one, but two liquor privatization measures last fall -- one of them sponsored by Costco. But a key lawmaker says that's not stopping the Issaquah warehouse chain from continuing to push the issue in Olympia.

Read more
Washington State Legislature
8:05 am
Fri February 11, 2011

One month down, lots of work ahead on budget

Supporters of pre-K programs in Washington rally on the steps of the statehouse in opposition to proposed budget cuts.
Austin Jenkins N3

Washington's legislature has hit the one-month mark. Budget writers say a deal is close at hand between the House and Senate to re-balance the current two-year spending plan. After that, attention will shift to the closing a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the next two-year budget.

Read more
Washington Legislature
12:45 am
Thu February 10, 2011

Immigrants' rally in Olympia against driver's license bills

Immigrant rights groups are pushing back against efforts to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in Washington. They rallied at the Capitol Wednesday in opposition to several legislative proposals. 

In the Capitol Rotunda, the chant was:

Safety first, driver's licenses for all.

Members of the group OneAmerica voiced opposition to the half-dozen proposals in the Washington legislature to require proof – or at least evidence of – lawful presence in the United States in order to get a driver's license.

Read more
Business
1:23 pm
Wed February 9, 2011

One year later: Did Idaho's "love letter" attract Washington and Oregon businesses?

Idaho Gov. Bruce Otter delivers his 'love letter' to Washington and Oregon businesses, in 2010.
justmaketheshift.com

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. So we thought it was a good time to update a story from nearly a year ago. Last March, Idaho Governor Butch Otter penned a "love letter" to Washington and Oregon businesses. He was trying to romance companies into moving to his state.

Read more
Washington Legislature
7:47 am
Wed February 9, 2011

Treasurer, lawmakers seek constitutional amendment on pensions

A bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers proposes a constitutional amendment to require pension payments.
Austin Jenkins N3

Washington's pension system is underfunded to the tune of nearly $7 billion. Now the State Treasurer and a bipartisan group of lawmakers say the time has come to force the legislature to pay the pension bill.

Read more
Basic Health Plan
2:23 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

Proposal would cut illegal immigrants from Basic Health Plan

Undocumented immigrants would lose state medical coverage under a proposal to save the popular Basic Health insurance program. The get-tough measure is part of a budget-cutting plan unveiled by the State Senate. But it's at odds with a competing approach in the House.

Read more
State Budget
11:04 am
Wed February 2, 2011

State cuts benefits to welfare families


In a single day, Washington cut more than 5,000 families from the state's welfare-to-work program. That's because a strict, five-year limit on benefits kicked in. It's a cost-cutting measure ordered by the Governor.

Read more
Tax Exemptions
1:56 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Lawmakers take stand on urban-to-rural tax flow


Democrats in the Washington House of Representatives have a "One Washington" mantra. But a couple of Western Washington lawmakers are testing that East-West unity. Their issue? The flow of state tax dollars that go over the mountains.

Read more
Crime
6:11 am
Tue February 1, 2011

Questions linger over prison guard's killing


Governor Chris Gregoire has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in memory of a slain prison correctional officer. Gregoire has also initiated an outside review of the murder of Officer Jayme Biendl over the weekend.

Read more
Crime
7:37 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Monroe prison guard murdered over weekend

Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl
Wash. DOC

His “worst nightmare.” That's how Washington’s Secretary of Corrections is describing the murder this weekend of a female correctional officer. Prison officials say 34-year-old Jayme Biendl was strangled to death.

Read more
U.S. Military
5:06 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Possible deal for soldier accused in Afghan War crimes

Spc. Jeremy Morlock.
US Army

There's been a significant development in the case of five Washington-based soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghan civilians last year. The Washington Post reports a plea deal has been struck with one of the key defendants. But an Army spokesman cautions nothing's been finalized. 

The Post, citing an anonymous source, says Specialist Jeremy Morlock has agreed to a deal that would spare him the possibility of life in prison.

Read more
Law & Justice
7:48 am
Thu January 27, 2011

More learned about man who threatened Gregoire

A man who says he was upset over losing state benefits has been arrested and charged with making threats against Governor Chris Gregoire and her family. 51-year-old Robert Ray Locke was arraigned on one count of felony threat and pleaded not guilty.

Read more
License Debate
10:50 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Gregoire supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses

Governor Chris Gregoire says she supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses. Washington is one of the last states in the nation that still issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Gregoire says ending that practice is a matter of national security:

"The job of being governor has changed dramatically since I came into office in 2005 and security has become one of the top priorities for every governor in this country."

There are several proposals in the legislature to require the Department of Licensing to confirm an applicant's "legal presence" in the country. Gregoire says if the legislature sends her a bill, she’ll sign it.

The governor's statement comes after a public radio report earlier this week on the issue. 

Read more

Pages