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 Economy
6:25 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Washington Secretly Competed For Tesla ‘Gigafactory' Worth Thousands Of Jobs

An electric plug decal is seen on the back of a Tesla electric car.
Mel Evans AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tried to woo electric carmaker Tesla Motors to build a massive battery factory in the Evergreen state. But according to at least one report, the company may have already broken ground near Reno, Nevada.

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Law
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

ACLU Takes On Case Of Idaho Teen In Solitary Confinement

Eldon Samuel III is charged with murdering his father and younger brother in Coeur d’Alene in March.
Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

In north Idaho, a 15-year-old boy sits in an isolated jail cell awaiting trial for murder. Eldon Samuel III is accused of shooting to death his father and younger brother in March

Juveniles accused of crimes like this are automatically charged as adults in Idaho. But now, Samuel’s lawyer and the ACLU are trying to get him moved out of solitary confinement at the adult county jail. They say his isolation amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

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Other News
1:05 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Inslee Says Feds Will Help Restore Power In Fire Zone

Map of current large fire locations in the Northwest

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 5:42 pm

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Tuesday President Obama has pledged immediate federal aid to help fire-swept areas of north central Washington.

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Foster Care
4:59 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Judge Sides Again With Wash. Foster Youth

A judge in Bellingham has ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

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Campaign Finance
10:52 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Washington's Mid-Term Elections Draw In More Than Nearly $33 Million So Far

Washington Public Disclosure Commission

Washington’s Aug. 5 primary is now less than a month away. It’s a mid-term election year with no statewide offices on the ballot. Even so, nearly $33 million have already been contributed to campaigns.

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Washington Supreme Court
1:42 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Wash. Supreme Court Sides With Boyfriend In School Backpack Shooting Case

A Washington man whose loaded gun went off in a school backpack, critically injuring a student can’t be charged with third-degree assault, Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The split decision stems from a high-profile case in 2012 in Bremerton.

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Unemployment
4:29 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Washington Jobless Rate At 6-Year Low, But Rural Counties Still Lag

Washington’s jobless rate has dropped to below 6 percent — the lowest level in six years, according to the June jobs report released Wednesday.

Seattle’s King County is leading the recovery, but most Washington counties remain above the statewide average. And some rural counties of the state are much higher.

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Prison System
10:10 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Long Sentences, Aging Inmates May Strain Washington's Clemency

Layers of barbed wire surround Washington's Monroe Correctional Complex.
Justin Steyer KPLU

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority.

So what’s the solution? Washington could release some older inmates who are serving long sentences. But lawmakers are wary of a political backlash. The state abolished parole in the 1980s.

That leaves clemency as the remaining pressure-relief valve on the prison system. And that system of mercy may not be up to the task.

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Dueling Initiatives
3:54 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Poll: Gun Rights Initiative Losing Support While Background Check Remains Popular

FILE - Supporters Zach Silk, left, and Cheryl Stumbo deliver boxes of petitions for Initiative 594 to the Secretary of State's office Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Olympia, Washington.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Support for a gun rights measure on Washington’s fall ballot is flagging, according to a new Elway poll released Tuesday. Meanwhile, a dueling measure that would expand background checks remains popular.

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Aerospace
8:40 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Moses Lake Selected As Test Flight Center For Japanese Regional Jet

Japan-based Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has announced plans to test its new regional jet in Moses Lake, Washington.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.

A Japanese airplane maker will test its new regional jet in Moses Lake, Washington. Mitsubishi Aircraft Company made that announcement Monday at the Farnborough Air Show in England. 

Gov. Jay Inslee is attending the air show with a delegation. He told reporters in a conference call that Mitsubishi’s investment could put central Washington on the global map for flight tests.

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Washington Supreme Court
4:24 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Says ‘Stop And Frisk’ Went Too Far

Police in Washington can “stop and frisk” individuals they have specific reason to believe may be armed. But if that search goes beyond a “brief and nonintrusive” search, then it’s unconstitutional, according to a finding by the Washington Supreme Court Thursday.

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Legal Marijuana
9:41 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Amid Fanfare, Pot Stores Open Around Washington State

Taunya Harris, is a "cannabis coach" for Altitude pot store in Prosser, Washington. She showed of a container that customers can sniff and see the buds to choose their favorite strain.
Anna King Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 6:58 pm

Washington’s recreational marijuana market is open for business. From Seattle to Bellingham to Prosser, marijuana stores opened for business Tuesday to excited customers who lined up, dressed up and celebrated the end of pot prohibition.

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Legal Marijuana
4:52 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

In Wash. State, Would-Be Customers Eagerly Await Pot Store Openings

Rick Stevens stopped by 420 Carpenter, a marijuana retail location in Lacey, Washington to see if it was open yet.
Austin Jenkins

The first legal marijuana stores in Washington are scheduled to open Tuesday. The Liquor Control Board issued the first 24 retail licenses early Monday.

But state officials warn of high prices and short supply in the beginning. Even so that’s not keeping away some would-be customers.

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Life Behind Bars
4:45 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Washington Prisons Will No Longer Punish Inmates For ‘Self-Harm’

Justin Steyer KPLU

Washington’s prison system has announced a major policy change when it comes to inmates who harm themselves. The Department of Corrections said Thursday that it will no longer sanction inmates for cutting or other acts of self-injury.

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Legal Marijuana
10:33 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Wash. State To Issue About 20 Pot Retail Licenses Monday

Brennan Linsley AP Photo

Washington’s Liquor Control Board plans to issue about 20 marijuana retail licenses next Monday, and the first pot stores could open the next day following a 24-hour waiting period.

But the state cautions many stores may not be ready yet for customers and marijuana could be in short supply.

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