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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health benefit exchanges
5:45 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Northwest health exchanges are big money ventures

Nearly a half-billion dollars is 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.

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balancing interests
1:17 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

In citizen Legislature, conflict of interest lines blurred

Morgan Garvin Flickr

Washington lawmakers have departed the Capitol and are getting back to their normal lives. For most of them, that means going back to their regular jobs as farmers, lawyers, nurses, business owners. It’s the essence of a citizen Legislature. But this dual existence—one job as a lawmaker and another job back home—can invite conflicts of interest.

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marijuana regulation
12:55 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

Pot consultant: Legal pot will work only if police target black market

Elaine Thompson Associated Press

The stated goal of Washington’s new marijuana law is to stop treating adult pot use as a crime. But Washington’s pot consultant says this experiment in legalization will only work if the police aggressively target the black market. And he’s concerned that won’t happen.

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regulating marijuana
4:09 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Revised pot rules ditch state logo, allow outdoor grows

Washington’s official pot logo is out. Outdoor marijuana grows are in. Those are just two of the changes to the proposed rules for the state’s new recreational marijuana market. The Liquor Control Board voted Wednesday to approve the revised regulations.

The biggest change in the rules comes as no surprise. The state will now allow outdoor marijuana grows as long as they’re fenced in. Liquor Board member Chris Marr explained why he and his colleagues had a change of heart about outdoor cultivation.

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Columbia River Crossing
4:16 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Joint Wash.-Ore. Columbia River Crossing office to close

FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2011, file photo, made in Portland, Ore., the Interstate 5 bridge spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.
Don Ryan, File Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee called it “a dang shame.” Plans for a new bridge over the Columbia River are shelved, if not dead, after the state Legislature adjourned over the weekend without funding the construction phase of the project.

You might call the Columbia River Crossing “the bridge to the archives.” That’s where the blueprints will go now that the Washington Senate said “no” to a gas tax increase. That nixes $450 million for the new bridge over the mighty Columbia between Vancouver and Portland.

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governor's report card
12:02 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Gov. Inslee chalks up wins, losses in first session

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee can claim some significant legislative wins and several losses now that the Legislature has finally adjourned.

The Democrat’s first dance with lawmakers was made more difficult when Republicans and two breakaway Democrats took control of the state Senate.

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transportation package
2:23 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

On second try, state House passes gas tax measure

Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The Washington House has approved a $10 billion transportation package that includes a 10.5 cent gas tax increase over two years. The vote Thursday followed a failed effort Wednesday to approve the same measure. 

It was a rare do-over vote on the House floor. And State Representative Marko Liias, a Democrat, acknowledged as much.

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state budget
11:37 am
Thu June 27, 2013

Gov't shutdown averted: Gov. announces budget deal

<> Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says a government shutdown on Monday has been averted. The Democrat announced a budget deal Thursday that comes just in the nick of time. Monday is the start of a new fiscal year and without a signed budget much of state government would have been shuttered.

“The deal reached today makes it clear that state government will continue to operate. We will be notifying all state employees to be at work on Monday, July 1. Government operations will not be interrupted," the governor said. 

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proposed gas tax hike
5:00 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Gas tax package falls short in state House

<> Flickr

A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by 10.5 cents to fund transportation projects has failed in the state House. Supporters on Wednesday came up one vote short. But they vow to try again.

The transportation revenue package would raise $10 billion for maintenance and preservation of existing roads and to fund new projects. The proposal calls for a 6 cent gas tax increase this summer followed by another 4.5 cent increase next July. On the House floor, Republican Ed Orcutt blasted the proposal as an unaffordable tax hike.

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perks of elected office
3:34 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Trip to Turkey, Azerbaijan marks state senator's foreign travel

Washington state Senator Pam Roach appears on Azerbaijani television during a trip in May to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
Sen. Pam Roach

It can be one of the perks of elected office: free trips to foreign lands. Recently, several Washington state lawmakers were invited on a 10-day tour of Turkey and Azerbaijan. This particular overseas excursion has raised questions in the Capitol about when a foreign trip is legitimate legislative business and when it’s a junket.

The invitations were hand delivered to legislative offices earlier this spring. The cover letter began: “We want to invite you to Turkey and the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention.”

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government shutdown
4:44 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

State budget talks heat up, gov't shutdown details emerge

From left to right, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Chief of Staff Mary Alice Heuschel, Julie Murray from the Office of Financial Management, and Inslee's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, listen to a question from the media about contingency plans for a pote
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

The push is on to reach a final budget deal in Olympia. Top legislative leaders met Thursday in an attempt to bridge their final differences.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what a government shutdown on July 1 would look like if no agreement is reached.

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outdoor marijuana grows
4:13 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Liquor Control Board staff: Allow outdoor marijuana grows

Licensed outdoor marijuana grows may be allowed in Washington after all.

Staff at the state’s Liquor Control Board said Wednesday they’ve been persuaded by potential growers to consider alternatives to energy-intensive indoor pot production.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana patients rallied at the state Capitol in opposition possible new restrictions on them.

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state budget
11:24 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Positive revenue news could break budget logjam in Olympia

There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have more than $300 million in additional funds to help bridge their differences, thanks to a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

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Washington Budget
2:09 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Government shutdown? Prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not

Office of the Governor

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 3:10 pm

Washington prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not if there’s a government shutdown. Governor Jay Inslee met with his cabinet Wednesday to begin contingency planning if there’s no budget by the end of the month. That’s the start of the new fiscal year.

“We’re not talking about opening the prison doors because there are clear federal mandates from the federal constitution and federal laws to provide for folks that are in our care and custody,” says Nick Brown, the Governor’s attorney.

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Washington Budget
11:09 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Washington estate tax refunds halted after midnight bill signing

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 3:16 pm

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

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