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.


Kids & Marijuana
6:34 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Marijuana Sales Get Underway, But Youth Prevention Campaign Months Away

Ted S. Warren AP Photo

People are lining up to buy legal marijuana in Washington state. Now the question is how to convince kids not to touch the stuff.

A panel of experts briefed Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday on the topic of youth marijuana use.

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4:31 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Annual Report: Wash. Paid Out $48 Million In Liability Claims, A Six-Year Low

Washington State Department of Enterprise Services

The state of Washington paid out nearly $50 million last fiscal year to people who were somehow harmed by the state. The numbers were released Tuesday in an annual report on tort claim payouts.

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Political Contributions
10:51 am
Tue September 23, 2014

California Climate Activist Dumps $1 Million Into Washington State Politics

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2012 file photo, Tom Steyer waves as he walks to the podium to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
J. Scott Applewhite AP Photo

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has dumped $1 million into Washington state.

The seven-figure contribution was made last week and became public Monday.

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Oso Landslide
3:00 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Six Months After Oso Landslide, Lawsuit, Legal Claims Ongoing

File - This March 22, 2014 file photo, made available by the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, shows a view of the damage from the March 22, 2014 mudslide in Oso, Washington.
AP Photo/Washington State Dept of Transportation

Six months ago Monday, forty-three people lost their lives in the Oso landslide. So far, nearly 60 legal claims have been filed against the state of Washington stemming from the slide.

Attorney Karen Willie says a half-year later a “deep wound” remains from Oso. I spoke with her at 10:37a.m., the exact-six month anniversary.

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Political Contributions
9:34 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Wealthy Individuals Bankroll Washington Campaigns

In this Aug. 2, 2013 photo, Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer poses for a photo in his office in downtown Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

So far this year, business interests have contributed more than $16 million to political campaigns and committees in Washington.

But gifts from individual donors eclipse even that. That’s because a small group of wealthy people are writing large checks.

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Labor Union
2:46 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Washington State Employees Negotiate First Pay Raises In 6 Years

Washington state employees have not had a cost-of-living raise in six years. But that could change in the next budget cycle.

A tentative contract deal has been struck between the state and the union representing general government workers.

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9:58 am
Tue September 16, 2014

PACs Face Quirk In Washington Law Before They Can Spend Money

File photo of Tom Steyer
Steve Helber AP Photo

California billionaire Tom Steyer is poised to help Democrats try to win back control of the Washington Senate. But first, his NextGen political action committee had to satisfy a quirk in the law.

Call it the ten-ten rule. In Washington, political committees have to jump a small hurdle before they can play in Washington’s political sandbox. The rule is the committee must receive $10 or more from at least 10 registered Washington voters. Now that NextGen has this bit of local skin in the game, climate activist Tom Steyer is free to start spending some serious on Washington races.

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Ethics Board Ruling
12:24 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Washington Lt. Governor Agrees To $15K Ethics Fine

FILE - Lt. Gov. Brad Owen bangs the gavel as he conducts business in the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2014 session of the Washington state Legislature, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen has agreed to a $15,000 ethics fine. The settlement announced Friday stems from the five-term Democrat’s use of state resources to operate a nonprofit with his wife.

The ethics investigation concluded that Owen used his office and staff to help run Strategies for Youth, a nonprofit that went around to schools, performing concerts with an anti-bullying message.

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Education Funding
10:26 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Finds State In Contempt In McCleary Case

Members of the McCleary family won a school funding lawsuit against the State of Washington. They spoke to reporters outside the Washington Supreme Court following a contempt hearing Sept. 3, 2014.
Austin Jenkins

In an unprecedented move, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state in contempt of court in the McCleary school funding case. However, the justices will wait to impose sanctions until after the 2015 legislative session to give the legislature time to "purge the contempt."

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Other News
6:52 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Washington Regulators Shut Down Party Bus Company

Washington regulators are continuing their crackdown on the party bus industry. The state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) announced Wednesday it’s shutting down a company that stranded a group of prom-goers.

We first broke the story of the state’s get-tough approach to party buses back in April. The UTC says safety is its top concern.

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4:52 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Weighs New Trial For Lakewood Cop Killer's Accomplice

FILE - Darcus Allen, left, who is accused of driving Maurice Clemmons away from the coffee shop where Clemmons is suspected of killing four Lakewood, Wash., police officers, appears in Pierce County Superior Court, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The getaway driver in the murders of four Lakewood, Washington police officers is seeking a new trial. The case has made it to the Washington Supreme Court and on Tuesday, the justices heard arguments.

Darcus Allen, also known as Dorcus Allen, was convicted and sentenced to 420 years in prison as an accomplice to Maurice Clemmons, the Arkansas-parolee who murdered the four officers in a coffee shop in 2009. Clemmons was later shot and killed by a Seattle police officer. Prosecutors went after Allen who drove the getaway truck.

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Psychiatric Care
4:29 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Grants 120-Day Stay In Psychiatric Boarding Ruling


The state of Washington now has until the end of the year to stop “boarding” mental health patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds. The Supreme Court on Friday granted a 120-day stay in a ruling that declared the practice of boarding illegal. 

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Education Funding
4:35 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Inslee Scolds Legislature On School Funding But Cautions Court On Sanctions

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about how the state needs to address education funding, on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Olympia, Washington.
Rachel La Corte AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says the Legislature has not “acted appropriately” in the face of the McCleary decision on school funding. But he cautioned the state Supreme Court Thursday not to impose sanctions that would penalize other areas of state government.

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Education Funding
4:51 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Washington Justices Weigh Contempt, Sanctions Following McCleary Hearing

Following a contempt hearing, members of the McCleary family, who sued the state of Washington over school funding, answer questions from the media on the steps of the Washington Supreme Court.
Austin Jenkins

The Washington Supreme Court has heard the arguments, and it must now decide whether to hold the state in contempt for failing to submit a complete plan to fully fund schools.

The nine justices heard oral arguments Wednesday in a historic hearing that could result in sanctions against the state Legislature.

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Legal Marijuana
4:01 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Washington Welfare Cards Used At Two Pot Stores In July

FILE - This July 1, 2014, photo shows packets of a variety of recreational marijuana named "Space Needle" during packaging operations at Sea of Green Farms in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

In the first month of legal recreational marijuana sales in Washington, two welfare clients withdrew cash at pot stores using their electronic benefits transfer cards in violation of state law, according to the Office of Fraud and Accountability within the Department of Social and Health Services.

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