Austin Jenkins

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. His reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists. Austin is the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Washington State Association for Justice.

Spokane native Ty Carter has received the nation’s highest military decoration. 

The case of Sgt. Robert Bales – sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole - will be remembered in the villages of southern Afghanistan.

But according to a military justice expert at Yale Law School, this war crime won’t go down in the history books as others - like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam - have.

Eugene Fidell teaches the My Lai massacre in his military justice class at Yale Law. In March of 1968, a rogue company of soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed civilians – including women and children.

A jury of six soldiers is hearing graphic testimony Tuesday afternoon at the start of the sentencing phase of the trial of a U.S. soldier who massacred Afghan villagers. The jury will decide whether Staff Sgt. Robert Bales deserves life in prison with or without the chance of parole.

The state of Washington is just beginning the process of writing new rules to govern hospital mergers. But already there’s controversy over what role the state should play when religious health care providers propose to take over hospitals.

The pace of hospital mergers has picked up in recent years amid a climate of healthcare consolidation. Many of them involved Catholic-based providers. The ACLU of Washington and other organizations are concerned this trend could limit access to end-of-life and reproductive services.

Nearly $500 million.

That’s how much the federal government has awarded Washington, Oregon and Idaho to create health benefit exchanges. These are the new web portals to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. It’s a costly undertaking that involves six-figure salaries, hefty IT contracts and high-end advertising campaigns.

If a green, talking gecko can sell car insurance, then maybe Portland-based folk singer Laura Gibson can sell health insurance.

The trucking company involved in the Skagit River bridge collapse had no serious safety violations. That’s according to U.S. Department of Transportation records. A vice president for the company says he’s “baffled” how one of his trucks could have brought down a bridge. But engineers say it’s possible – especially with an older truss-style bridge.

When Jugesh Kapur was in charge of the bridge department at the Washington Department of Transportation, he says about once a month he’d get a report of a truck or some other moving object striking a bridge.

Just prior to the I-5 bridge collapse Thursday night north of Seattle, eyewitnesses report an oversized load struck a portion of the bridge’s steel superstructure. That’s the frame that’s key to holding the bridge up.

A hacking incident involving Washington’s court system could affect upwards of a million people. The Administrative Office of the Courts announced that hackers breached its public website sometime last fall or early this year and social security and potentially driver license numbers were accessed.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

When Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana last fall, they handed the state’s Liquor Control Board a regulatory nightmare. There’s no manual for how to create a safe and legal market for pot – something that’s never been done before. 

State Representative Roger Goodman – speaking after a recent meeting on marijuana legalization – says the giggle factor is gone.

The fate of a universal background check measure in the Washington state House could be decided this week.  Wednesday is a key cut-off deadline. Recently the gun control measure lost a pivotal “yes” vote.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

As the state of Washington moves to legalize marijuana, pot entrepreneurs are lobbying in public forums and behind the scenes. These business interests want to shape the new marijuana marketplace. Among them, a Seattle-based private equity firm called Privateer Holdings. The company has hired a top Olympia lobbyist and is making the case for large marijuana grows to state regulators.  

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Efforts to get gun rights leaders in Washington to support -- or at least not oppose -- universal background checks appear to have hit a stumbling block. At issue is a state database that tracks pistol sales. Second Amendment advocates want it shut down, but the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs say it’s a vital law enforcement tool.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The idea of requiring background checks for all gun sales in Washington appears to be gaining traction. Nearly half of the Washington state Senate Monday signed onto a universal background check proposal.

Co-signers to the legislation include Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat. Just last month he seemed cool to a similar universal background check proposal from the Washington House.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democratic lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon are working on measures to require background checks for all gun sales. A universal check proposal was introduced Wednesday in the Washington House. A similar bill is expected in the Oregon Senate soon.

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