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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regulating marijuana
10:10 am
Wed September 4, 2013

State Liquor Board Announces Proposed Caps on Recreational Pot

AP Photos

The state of Washington can produce, at most 40 metric tons, or 2 million square feet, of marijuana per year, the state Liquor Control Board said in its revised proposed rules for recreational pot on Wednesday.  

A total of 334 pot stores will be allowed statewide, the board said, and each county will have its own cap.

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Amber Alerts Explained
2:30 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Amber Alerts Not Issued for Every Missing Child

File image
Nati Harnik Associated Press

The recent case of two missing children from Washington has raised fresh questions about the Amber Alert system. The brother and sister from Pierce County were located and are safe, but their disappearance did not trigger an Amber Alert.

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marijuana regulation
11:58 am
Tue September 3, 2013

State Liquor Board to Propose Caps on Pot Production, Stores

Elaine Thompson Associated Press

We’re about to find out the number of marijuana retail store locations that will be allowed in each of Washington’s 39 counties. The state’s Liquor Control Board plans to release that information Wednesday as part of the latest draft rules for Washington’s new legal pot marketplace.

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citizen lobbyist
5:01 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Determined Father Learns the Ropes in Olympia, Advances Bill

Citizen lobbyist Jeff Schwartz with his wife Cathy and sons Jacob (on couch) and Sam at their home in Kirkland, Washington.

There are nearly 900 registered lobbyists in Washington state. These are the paid professionals who try to influence the outcome of the legislative process.

But this year, a determined dad proved even outsiders can play the legislative game with a bit of help.

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regulating marijuana
3:44 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

City Moratoriums Could Thwart Legal Pot

Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Legal pot? Not so fast. That’s the message from a growing number of Washington cities.

Several municipalities are considering whether to pass a moratorium on pot-related businesses. Others, like Bellingham and Olympia, have already enacted temporary bans. 

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Afghan civilian killing
9:19 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Afghan Victims Testify in Bales Sentencing Hearing

DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock, File/AP Photo

An Afghan father broke down in a courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and tried to leave the witness stand.

The emotional outburst Tuesday came during the sentencing hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to murdering 16 Afghan villagers in March of last year.

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Growing marijuana
5:01 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Wash. State Compiles List of Pesticides for Marijuana Growers

Associated Press

The state of Washington has compiled a lengthy list of pesticides for marijuana growers to use, even though these chemicals are not officially approved for pot. The new list is part of the state’s ongoing effort to regulate the production of legal, recreational marijuana.

Cannabis is about to become Washington’s newest, legal cash crop. Like any crop, marijuana plants are susceptible to pests. Since pot cultivation is against federal law, there are no pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency specifically for cannabis.

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public health
10:50 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Controversy over State Role in Hospital Mergers

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 American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other organizations are concerned this trend could limit access to end-of-life and reproductive services.

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Lost in Translation
7:01 am
Sun July 28, 2013

State's Translated Health Exchange Fact Sheets Get Poor Marks

Call it a case of “lost in translation.” Washington and Oregon’s new health insurance exchanges are getting poor marks for their efforts to communicate with foreign language audiences.

On the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website, you can find fact sheets in eight foreign languages, from Cambodian to Somali. These one- and two-page documents are supposed to help uninsured families navigate the new world of the Affordable Care Act.

But after the translations went live on the website, the feedback wasn't so good.

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lobbyists & legislators
11:57 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Legislative Ethics Board to Investigate Lobbyist Paid Meals

<> Flickr

Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has launched an investigation into lobbyist paid meals for lawmakers.

The inquiry follows our reporting with the Associated Press on lawmakers who dine out the most with lobbyists.

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dangers of canning
7:01 am
Sat July 20, 2013

Home Canning Hobby Leads to Near-Fatal Medical Emergency

Mike O’Connell
Austin Jenkins

Home canning is regaining popularity as part of the local food movement. If done right, families can enjoy home grown fruits, vegetables and even meat all through the winter. But if done wrong, it can be devastating, if not deadly.

A lawyer for the state of Washington recently learned that lesson the hard way.

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Drunk driving law
12:00 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Victim, Prosecutor Say New DUI Law Is Progress, But Not Enough

Dan Schulte, with his sister at his side, speaks at the bill signing ceremony for Washington’s new DUI law.
Austin Jenkins

Second-time drunk drivers in Washington will go directly to jail. They’ll also be required to get an ignition interlock device within five days.

Those are just two of the provisions in a sweeping new DUI measure signed into law Thursday. But already there are calls for even tougher penalties in the future.

The bill signing ceremony took place at a State Patrol field office. Gov. Jay Inslee was flanked by police, prosecutors, lawmakers, and victims.

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cost of informaton
2:46 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

State's Advisory Tax Vote Guides Could Cost $240K

FILE - A voter walks toward an empty bank of voting stations at a polling place Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Washington’s fall voters’ guide may be 20 pages longer and cost nearly a quarter-million dollars more to publish.

That’s because of a voter-approved requirement that all tax hikes appear on the ballot for an advisory vote. This year there will be five of these non-binding ballot measures.

Katie Blinn with Washington’s secretary of state’s office says each advisory vote requires four pages in the voters’ pamphlet.

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data center complex
4:08 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

State Acknowledges Washington Data Center Was Overbuilt

This image shows one of the “built out” data halls in Washington’s new data center.
Consolidated Technology Services

Critics of Washington’s new $300 million data center complex have been saying for years that it was overbuilt. Now, the state acknowledges as much.

In a new report, Washington’s Chief Information Officer concludes two of the four data halls will not be needed.

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Corporate tax break
9:28 am
Mon July 15, 2013

Tax Break for Russell Investments Riles House Finance Chair

Russell Investment Center
tiff_Seattle Flickr

It was the legislative equivalent of a buzzer beater.

Just as the Washington Legislature was about to adjourn last month, the House and Senate quickly passed a series of tax breaks mostly for businesses. They included exemptions for dance clubs, mint growers, dairy products and digital data used by international investment firms. That last one will largely benefit a single global firm—Seattle-based Russell Investments.

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