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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Generation M
5:00 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Despite Party Differences, Millennial Wash. Lawmakers Find Common Ground

The four youngest members of the Washington Legislature are two Democrats and two Republicans who find generational common ground in spite of their political differences.
Austin Jenkins

The Washington Legislature is trending a bit younger these day. Nine of the 147 members are under 34 years old.

The four youngest members of the Washington Legislature are two Democrats and two Republicans. This quartet of millennial lawmakers is made up of:

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High Court
2:36 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Inslee Appoints First Openly Gay Supreme Court Justice

King County Judge Mary Yu has been appointed to Washington Supreme Court.
Austin Jenkins

Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu to the Washington Supreme Court. Yu replaces two-term Justice James Johnson who stepped down this week for health reasons. Johnson was viewed as a lone conservative voice on the high court.

Yu will be the first woman of color, the first Asian-American, the first Latina and the first openly LGBT justice on our state's highest court.  

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Natural Disasters
5:00 am
Thu May 1, 2014

First-Of-Its-Kind Draft Report Outlines Threats Of Natural Disasters To Wash. Schools

The Oso landslide, with 41 dead and two still missing, could be the third-worst natural disaster in Washington history after the Steven's Pass Avalanche of 1910 and the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

But what if there had been a school in the path of the slide? The death toll could have been much higher.

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Cap and Trade
3:03 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Inslee Calls For New Cap And Trade Program

File image
Rachel La Corte AP Photo

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Undercover Licenses
8:19 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Washington’s Fictitious Driver’s License Program Larger Than First Reported

A new report reveals the state of Washington issued nearly 3,000 fictitious driver’s licenses to police agencies over the last 25 years.

That’s nearly twice as many as originally reported by the Washington Department of Licensing.

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Flooding
3:19 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Flood At Washington State Archives Dampens County Birth And Death Records

Photographs are spread out on a table to dry after a burst sink line sent water into a section of the Washington State Archives.
Austin Jenkins

When staff members arrived at the Washington State Archives Friday, the reading room looked like a ”swimming pool,” says state archivist Steve Excell.

A newly-installed kitchen sink line had flooded overnight, damaging archives, including marriage and birth records from the late 1800s.

Still, the damage could have been much worse; though records got wet, none was ruined, says Excell.

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Legal Marijuana
9:25 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Even University Mathematicians Have Role In Marijuana Legalization

AP Photo

The path to marijuana legalization in Washington state is keeping even university math professors busy.

They played a key role in developing the lottery now under way to determine who gets a license to open a pot store.

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Oso Slide
2:24 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Obama To Slide Victims, Responders: 'We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes'

President Barack Obama speaks to first responders, recovery workers and community members at the Oso Fire Department in Oso, Wash., Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
Carolyn Kaster AP Photo, Pool

President Barack Obama surveyed the damage from the March 22 disaster by helicopter as he traveled Tuesday to meet with those affected by the mudslide. 

Obama met privately with victims and family members before addressing a group of emergency responders at the Oso firehouse. The firehouse was decorated with posters thanking emergency responders and proclaiming “Oso strong.” Obama vowed the country will stand “strong right alongside you.”

"There are still families who are searching for loved ones.  There are families who have lost everything, and it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for them.  And that’s why I wanted to come here — just to let you know that the country is thinking about all of you and have been throughout this tragedy," said the president. "We're very, very proud of you. Michelle and I grieve with you."

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Legal Marijuana
5:00 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Youth Access To Marijuana Remains A Concern Under Legalization

AP Photo

The lottery to determine who will get a license to open a marijuana retail store in Washington gets under way this week. But the results probably won’t be known until early next month. Meanwhile, as Washington and Colorado go where no state or nation has gone before, concerns remain about kids getting their hands on pot.

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Lobbyists & Legislators
3:37 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Ethics Board To Consider Crackdown On Lobbyist-Paid Meals

Richard Hodgin of Seattle testified in favor of stricter free meal rules for Washington state lawmakers.
Austin Jenkins

By next January, Washington state lawmakers should have clearer guidance on when it’s OK to accept free meals from lobbyists. The state’s Legislative Ethics Board decided Tuesday to clarify the rules governing gifts in the form of food and beverage. The board’s action follows our investigation last year into lobbyist-paid meals.

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Politics
2:45 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Wash. Senate Majority Leader Tom Announces He Won’t Run For Re-Election

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, looks over a document on the first day of the 2014 session of the Washington state Legislature, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

One of the most influential and controversial members of the Washington state Legislature made a bombshell announcement Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, announced he is dropping his bid for re-election. Tom is one of two Democrats who joined with Republicans last year to help them take control of the state Senate.

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Transportation
12:32 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

After Deaths Nationwide, Washington Regulators Target Party Buses

Party bus owner William Prigmore says his industry helps keep drunk drivers off the road.
Austin Jenkins

These days, an old-fashioned stretch limo can look a bit stodgy. The new rage is party buses.

The buses carry more people, and you can even stand up, dance and drink as you cruise down the road. But these parties on wheels can come at a price. Nationwide, there have been 21 deaths on these buses, including one here in the Northwest.

Now regulators in Washington state are getting ready to crack down on the industry.

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Oso Slide
4:09 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Lands Commissioner: Logging Factor In Oso Slide 'Entirely Speculative'

Trees tower above a now-barren hillside at the scene of a deadly mudslide that hit over a week before, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Oso, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Speaking for the first time since the Oso landslide hit Snohomish County, Washington Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark suggested anti-logging interests want to use the disaster to advance their cause.

In an exclusive interview, the two-term Democrat said he is indignant in the wake of news reports that have focused on past logging on the plateau above the slide.

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Marijuana License
2:17 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Wash. State Pot Store Lottery Announced; Grow Licenses Lagging

File image
Brennan Linsley AP Photo

The timeline for when Washington’s first marijuana retail stores will open has slipped from June to early July, the state Liquor Control Board announced Wednesday.

The next step in the process is a lottery to see who wins a license to open a pot store. The results of that lottery should be known by early May.

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Explosion
2:19 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

LNG Plant Still Not Safe For Investigators

State and federal pipeline safety investigators have not yet been able to access the scene of an explosion and fire at a natural gas facility in southeast Washington. But they are interviewing employees who work at the Williams Northwest Pipeline facility where the accident took place Monday.

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