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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Affordable Care Act
11:55 am
Tue October 1, 2013

State Health Exchange Website Hits Snag on First Day

Nelly Kinsella demonstrates the Washington Healthplanfinder website, where consumers will be able to shop for health insurance, following a news conference Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Washington’s new health insurance exchange made a brief appearance Tuesday morning before going dark for much of the day. 

The site was supposed to come online at 7:30. Exchange officials say they quickly began receiving complaints that the site was loading slowly for some users, and not loading at all for others. Spokesman Michael Marchand says by 8:30, officials decided to pull the site offline to make repairs.

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regulating marijuana
6:01 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Labs Worry As Pot Testing Standards Lag

Caitlin Reece of Analytical 360 lab in Seattle prepares to test ground-up Cannabis-infused Purple Haze Goldfish crackers for potency.

Before legal marijuana in Washington hits store shelves, it will have to be tested. Special pot labs will check for potency, molds, foreign matter and bacteria like E. coli. It’s a key part of the recreational marijuana market approved by Washington voters last fall.

But setting the standards for how to lab-test pot turns out to be pretty complicated. And now some lab managers worry they won’t be ready in time.

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Pacific Tower
5:29 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Former Amazon Building Lease Could Cost $270M over 30 Years

Wonderlane Flickr

More than $270 million over 30 years. That’s how much it could cost the state of Washington to lease and operate the former headquarters of Amazon.com.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers voted to turn the building into a new training center for future health care workers. The preliminary cost estimate is contained in documents released as part of a public records request.

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misuse of funds
10:20 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Sen. Dems: Misuse of Campaign Funds Might Have Cost Key Race

<> Flickr

Washington Senate Democrats say the misuse of campaign funds last year may have cost them a key race, and consequently, control of the state Senate. The acknowledgement on Wednesday came as prosecutors filed theft charges against a former top campaign committee staffer.

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lobbyists & legislators
1:15 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

New Lobbyist Meal Form to Distinguish ‘Chowder’ from ‘Steak’

<> Flickr

The staff at Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission has recommended changes to how lobbyists report their meals out with lawmakers. The move follows our investigation last spring with the Associated Press into lobbyist-paid entertainment.

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medical marijuana
11:40 am
Thu September 19, 2013

High Court Sides with Non-Card-Carrying Medical Pot Patient

File image
AP Photo

The Washington state Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card.

In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

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border to border
11:07 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Drugs, Guns, and Money: Anatomy of a West Coast Trafficking Ring

A trial exhibit that shows the geographic scope of the Berrelleza-Verduzco trafficking ring.
Court Exhibit: U.S. v. Anchondo

Editor’s Note: Mexican drug cartels operate an illicit export business that depends on freeways that run from California and Arizona to Canada. If you drive these freeways, chances are you’ve passed a car or truck secretly holding a cargo of heroin, meth, or cocaine.

This week we’ll take you inside the world of drug-trafficking, an illegal business that touches every city, every small town in every state in the west. In the first part of our series Border to Border Drugs, correspondent Austin Jenkins introduces us to a smuggling ring that operated from Arizona to Washington state.

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On Jan. 21, 2012 at 8:37 in the evening, federal agents intercepted a phone call. It was between a man named Victor Berrelleza-Verduzco and one of his associates, Jose.

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labor dispute
9:37 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Longshoremen Take Down Picket Line; Bertha to Resume Digging

WSDOT

The tunnel-boring machine known as Big Bertha will resume digging after longshoremen agreed to remove their picket line which had been in place since Aug. 20.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 agreed to let the project resume despite an unresolved labor dispute with the project contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, over four jobs.

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Politics
5:57 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Governor Boosts Salaries for Several Cabinet Positions

<> Flickr

Since taking office in January, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has raised the salaries for several cabinet level positions. In total, those raises add up to nearly $100,000 over the course of a year. The boost in salaries comes even as the state continues to recover financially.

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marijuana money
4:30 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Pot Taxes Paid in Cash? Wash. State Says OK

File image
Ed Andrieski Associated Press

Marijuana-based businesses in Washington will be able to pay their taxes in cash, according to the state’s Department of Revenue. The agency is gearing up for more cash filers in its field offices.

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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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