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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Politics
11:04 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Big Checks From Special Interests Flow To Legislative Caucus PACs In Washington

Longtime state Senator Tim Sheldon is a political target this year after the maverick Democrat joined with Republicans to help them take control of the Washington Senate.
Austin Jenkins

This November’s election will decide who controls the Washington state Senate. Democrats are desperate to win back the majority while a mostly-Republican coalition that took power last year is determined to hold on.

In the meantime, big-money interests on both sides are trying to influence the outcome. They’re pouring unlimited contributions into political action committees controlled by the legislative caucuses.

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Election
5:32 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Nearly $6 Million And Counting For Wash. Fall Ballot Measures

Petitions for Initiative 594 are counted at the Secretary of State's office Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Olympia, Washington.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Washington’s November election will decide three statewide ballot measures. So far, nearly $6 million has flowed to these campaigns, and it’s still early.

Initiative 594 to expand background checks for gun sales is far out in the lead when it comes to fundraising. So far, nearly $3.4 million raised with recent $500,000 contributions each from Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates. Plus, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer just contributed $1 million.

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Psychiatric Care
4:44 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Puts Hospital Boarding Decision On Hold

File image
Taber Andrew Bain Flickr

The state of Washington will not have to start discharging severely mentally-ill patients starting this week. The Supreme Court on Monday put a hold on a recent ruling that says it’s illegal for the state to “board” psychiatric patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds.

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Voting Rights
1:32 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Federal Judge: Yakima Election System Disenfranchises Latino Voters

FILE - More than four in 10 residents in Yakima are Hispanic, but Sonia Rodriguez True still lost her race for city council in 2009.
Austin Jenkins

A federal judge has ruled that the way city council members are elected in Yakima, Washington disenfranchises Latino voters.

Last week’s surprising ruling comes exactly two years after the ACLU filed a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the city.

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Psychiatric Care
8:45 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Washington Seeks Emergency Stay On Psychiatric Boarding Ruling

File image
Taber Andrew Bain Flickr

The Washington Supreme Court recently ruled it is illegal for the state to “board” mental health patients in emergency rooms and regular hospital beds.

The state of Washington said late Friday it can open 145 new psychiatric beds, but it needs some additional time. The attorney general has now asked the Supreme Court to “stay” its ruling for 120 days.

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Growing Marijuana
10:27 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Amid Legal Pot, Search Continues For Illegal Grows

This July 1, 2014, photo shows marijuana plants in containers at Sea of Green Farms, a recreational pot grower in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Legal marijuana grows are just getting started in Washington. But it’s the illegal ones that local, state and federal agents are searching out this month. It’s the annual summer marijuana eradication program.

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DNA Evidence
10:02 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Sets Standard For Post-Conviction DNA Testing

File image
Rogelio V. Solis AP Photo

Washington’s Supreme Court may have just made it easier for prison inmates to try to get their convictions overturned through DNA testing. In a 6-to-3 ruling Thursday, the high court said inmates don’t have to show they’re likely innocent in order to win a post-conviction DNA test.

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Lobbyists & Legislators
9:46 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Wash. Ethics Board Settles On 12 Lobbyist-Paid Meals Per Year Max

mathteacherguy Flickr

Washington lawmakers will be allowed to accept a dozen lobbyist-paid meals per year, but no more, according to a new vote by the state’s Legislative Ethics Board.

On the low side, one board member proposed a limit of three free meals a year. On the high side there was a proposal to allow two dozen a year. Even the compromise of 12 lobbyist-paid meals per year did not receive a unanimous vote. The vote is also not a final rule. That will come this October when the board meets again.

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Legislators & Lobbyists
3:20 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Washington Legislative Ethics Panel To Consider Free-Meals Rule

mathteacherguy Flickr

How many free meals is too many? That’s the question an ethics panel aims to answer at a public hearing Tuesday in Olympia. The Legislative Ethics Board will consider a draft proposal to limit how many free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

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Psychiatric Care
11:57 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Affirms Mental Health ‘Boarding’ Unlawful

File photo of the Washington Supreme Court chambers.
Cacophony Wikimedia Commons

The practice of "boarding" mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients who were involuntarily detained under state law, then placed in non-psychiatric beds.

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State Labor Negotiations
3:33 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Protesters Decry Wash. State's Closed-Door Labor Negotiations

Tim Welch of the Washington Federation of State Employees tries to hand out cups of tea to protesters from the Evergreen Foundation.
Austin Jenkins

As the state of Washington resumed bargaining sessions with its unionized employees Wednesday, protesters were present to criticize the secret nature of the meetings.

Chanting, "Secret meetings have got to go,” protesters waved signs that read “transparency now.” These protesters from the conservative Evergreen Foundation were greeted by staff and members of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

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Law
2:40 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Accused Teen Killer In North Idaho Moved Back To Juvenile Detention

Eldon Samuel is charged with murdering his father and younger brother in Coeur d’Alene in March.
Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

A north Idaho teenager accused of killing his father and brother is no longer being held in solitary confinement at an adult county jail. A judge on Tuesday approved an agreement allowing 15-year-old Eldon Samuel to be moved back to juvenile detention, overriding a previous judge’s decision.

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Primary Election
12:20 am
Wed August 6, 2014

In Historic First, Two Republicans Advancing In Wash. Congressional Race

Washington’s August primary appears to have delivered an historic first. Two Republicans are likely to advance to the November election in central Washington’s Fourth Congressional District.

Never before has the state’s top-two primary produced two contenders of the same party for a Congressional seat. 

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Primary Election
3:18 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Have You Voted In The Primary Election? Mail-In Ballots Due By 8 O'Clock

It’s primary day in Washington. Tuesday’s vote will decide a parks levy in Seattle and narrow the field in dozens of state legislative and Congressional races.

Ballots for the all vote-by-mail election are due in drop boxes by 8 p.m.

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AMBER Alert
9:31 am
Tue August 5, 2014

One Year After Idaho Rescue, AMBER Alerts Still Questioned

File image
Nati Harnik AP Photo

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a multi-state AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped California teenager.

A group of Idaho backcountry horsemen came across 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her abductor James Lee DiMaggio last August. When the four horsemen got home, they saw the news of the kidnapping and called police. Anderson was ultimately rescued and DiMaggio was shot to death by a federal agent.

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