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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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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Lobbyists & Legislators
12:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

The influence game: Lobbyists wine, dine lawmakers after hours

Longtime business lobbyist Steve Gano and his wife often host Washington lawmakers at the house they own across from the Capitol campus.
Austin Jenkins

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session.

The spending begs the question: What are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

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special session
9:47 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Columbia River crossing funding hinges on special session

Columbia River Crossing

Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 3:28 pm

When Washington lawmakers return to Olympia in two weeks for a special session, Governor Jay Inslee is demanding they approve funding for the new Columbia River Crossing. The Democrat wants that funding included in a broader gas tax measure. But the governor faces opposition from the state senate - especially one powerful southwest Washington Republican: Senator Don Benton.

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special session
1:35 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Special legislative session will have political implications

Democratic State Senator Tim Sheldon, at podium, says he smells “a rat” when it comes to the timing of a special session of the Legislature.
Austin Jenkins

An expected special session of the Washington state Legislature would mean another freeze on political fundraising.

State law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting contributions while they are in session. For most members, that’s probably not a huge concern since this is an off-election year. But a few legislators will be on this year’s ballot.

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State Legislature
10:56 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Inslee: It would take 'inside straight' to avoid special session

Gov. Jay Inslee says an overtime session is likely.

Gov. Jay Inslee is like the gambler. He says it would take an “inside straight” for the Legislature to complete its work by Sunday’s deadline. 

A nearly $1 billion tax vote in the Washington House Wednesday has cleared the way for budget negotiations to begin in earnest at the Capitol. But an overtime session still appears likely. 

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Eyman's Tax Initiative
6:01 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Eyman's initiative: Annual votes on supermajority rule for tax hikes

Nearly two months have passed since the Washington Supreme Court tossed out a voter-approved two-thirds requirement for tax hikes.

On Monday anti-tax activist Tim Eyman proposed an initiative he describes as a “lobbying tool” to bring back the super majority rule. Eyman’s proposal would require annual advisory votes asking the public if it wants the Legislature to enshrine the two-thirds threshold into the state constitution.

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state budget
5:01 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Without budget deal, prospect of special session looms

Alan Cordova Flickr

It appears more likely that Washington lawmakers will go into an overtime session. The regular 105-day session ends this Sunday. But the House and Senate, along with the governor, still have to agree on a two-year budget deal. Even if a deal was at hand—and it doesn’t appear one is—they’d be cutting it close.

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