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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lobbyists & legislators
4:00 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Lawmakers fault lobbyists' expense-reporting system

mathteacherguy Flickr

A public radio investigation into lobbyist-paid meals has prompted an ethics complaint against three state lawmakers.

The complaint was filed this week by an open government advocate named Arthur West, who alleges the two Republicans and one Democrat violated the rule that states lawmakers can accept free meals only on an “infrequent” basis.

Meanwhile, some legislators say they’re the victims of flaws in the system used by lobbyists report entertainment expenses.

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lobbyists & legislators
12:17 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Several state lawmakers eat frequently on lobbyists' dime

mathteacherguy Flickr

Washington state lawmakers are barred from accepting gifts intended to influence their vote. But there’s an exception to that rule. Members of the Legislature are allowed to accept free food and drinks if it’s related to their official duties, but only on an “infrequent” basis.

However, a public radio investigation, conducted in cooperation with the Associated Press, reveals that dozens of state legislators frequently accept meals from lobbyists. And many of them do so even while collecting taxpayer-funded per diem payments.

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Obituary
12:16 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Sen. Mike Carrell dies at age 69

Washington state Senator Mike Carrell of Lakewood has died from complications related to treatment for a pre-leukemia blood disorder.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said Carrell died Wednesday morning at a Seattle hospital of lung complications from his ongoing treatment of transplants from his brother and chemotherapy. Schoesler says that Carrell died in his sleep with his wife, Charlotte, nearby.

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bridge collapse
11:13 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Engineer says truck strike could bring down bridge

The Interstate 5 bridge over Washington's Skagit River collapsed Thursday night.
WSDOT

Just prior to the Interstate 5 bridge collapse Thursday night in Mount Vernon, an oversized load struck a portion of the bridge’s steel superstructure, according to eyewitness accounts. 

The I-5 bridge over the Skagit River was built in 1955. It’s a truss-style structure. All that steel above—"think of it as a 16 foot-tall beam," says bridge engineer Stanley Ryter. "And if any part of that breaks, then you lose the ability to carry the load."

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Fairchild Air Force Base
3:00 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Fairchild loses bid to house new Air Force tanker

Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base has lost out on a bid to be the first to house the Air Force's newest refueling tanker aircraft. 

While Spokane and Washington state leaders have spent the last few years touting Fairchild Air Force Base as the leading contender to take the first new Boeing KC 46A tanker planes, the Pentagon Wednesday decided that McConnell Air Force base in Wichita, Kansas is its choice. McConnell will receive the first batch of 36 planes in 2016. 

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fictitious license program
9:01 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Inslee signs law allowing fictitious ID program to continue

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law that will allow the state’s fictitious driver’s license program to continue, but only for undercover law enforcement activities. At the bill signing Tuesday, Inslee backed away from a previous statement that he would apply a broad definition of the term “law enforcement.

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special session
2:11 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Backers of gas tax rally at Capitol

Construction workers and others rally at the Washington Capitol in support of a gas tax measure to fund road projects.

Pressure is mounting on Washington state lawmakers to approve a gas tax increase to fund road projects. Backers of the 10-cents-per-gallon tax proposal rallied at the state Capitol Monday to push for a vote during the current 30-day overtime session.

Dozens in hard hats gathered on the steps of the Capitol, holding signs and chanting: “Pass it now! Pass it now!”

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fictitious license program
5:31 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

CIA vanishes from list of federal agencies with fictitious Wash. IDs

Washington’s Department of Licensing has released a list of federal agencies that have received fictitious driver’s licenses for undercover operations. But the list made public Friday does not include the Central Intelligence Agency even though the state agency previously acknowledged its work with CIA.

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marijuana laws
6:39 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Proposed ban on hash, pot extract irks critics

Ted S. Warren Associated Press

Washington’s proposed marijuana rules weren't even 24-hours old when critics began finding things not to like. The 46-pages of draft regulations released Thursday cover everything from where marijuana can be grown to the criminal backgrounds of license applicants. But it’s the section on marijuana concentrates that’s getting some negative buzz.

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marijuana quality control
4:50 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

A guidebook on marijuana quality control nearing completion

This image shows a part of the cover page of the Cannabis Monograph.
Austin Jenkins

Entrepreneurs who hope to cash in on legal marijuana will have some heavy reading to do Thursday. That’s when Washington’s Liquor Control Board is expected to release nearly 50 pages of proposed rules for growers, processors and retailers. But there is another pot rulebook that’s also in development.

It’s called the Cannabis Monograph. Think of it as an illustrated bible for pot quality control. It’s a technical but colorful handbook for testing labs to ensure the identity, purity, and quality of legal pot.

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cyber security
5:52 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Wash. Courts seek IT security review, audit following breach

Shane Pope Flickr

Washington’s court system will hire an outside expert to perform a computer security review and audit in the wake of a hacking incident that targeted system’s public website.

The hacking, the details of which were released last week, exposed nearly a hundred social security numbers and perhaps up to a million driver’s license numbers. But now there’s another cyber security concern at Washington Courts, this time with the state’s Judicial Information System.

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special session agenda
3:01 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Gov. Inslee narrows special session agenda

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee holds a news conference on the first day of the special legislative session, on Monday, May 13, 2013, in Olympia, Wash
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

With the state Legislature back in session for a 30-day extra inning, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday narrowed his agenda to three key items: the budget, a roads-and-transit funding package, and a crackdown on impaired drivers.

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fictitious license program
12:56 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

U.S. attorney blocks release of info on CIA fictitious licenses

The U.S. attorney in Seattle has stepped in to block the release of information about the once-secret program in which the state of Washington issued fictitious driver’s licenses for CIA agents.

In a letter to the state, Jenny Durkan’s office said the documents are “classified national security information.”

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special session
4:01 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

State budget talks slow, but governor sees progress

Washington’s special session begins next Monday. But at this point, it seems unlikely House and Senate budget negotiators will be close to a deal. Gov. Jay Inslee said both sides agreed Tuesday on some common assumptions about the next two year budget.

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lobbyists & legislators
12:05 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

State lawmakers defend frequent dinners with lobbyists

Washington state Rep. Marcus Riccelli (left) and state Senator Joe Fain have defended their frequent dining with lobbyists.

Two Washington state lawmakers are defending their frequent dinners with lobbyists. The meals show up in monthly reports filed with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

State Rep. Marcus Riccelli is a freshman Democrat from Spokane. On four occasions from January through March, he dined out with Michael Temple, a lobbyist for the state’s powerful trial lawyers association.

When asked Riccelli about those dinners, Riccelli joked, “I’m an Italian kid. I have a big appetite.”

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