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
4:35 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

California Billionaire Plans To Help Wash. State Democrats

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2012 file photo, Tom Steyer, co-founder of Advance Energy Economy, waves as he walks to the podium to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
J. Scott Applewhite AP Photo

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer plans to try to help Democrats win back the Washington state Senate.

Steyer and his NextGen Political Action Committee plan to target three to four state legislative races, likely Washington state Senate races. They will work in coordination with state environmentalists who have their own political action committees.

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Primary Election
1:16 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Wash. Primary Will Winnow Crowded Fields

The seat from Washington’s 4th Congressional District, which runs from the Canadian Border to the Columbia River in central Washington, is up for grabs.
Washington State Redistricting Commission

Washington voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their primary ballots. Secretary of State Kim Wyman projects a turnout of about 40 percent.

Among others, the primary will winnow the crowded fields for an open central Washington Congressional seat and a Seattle-area state Senate position.

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First Cut
5:00 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Reporter's Notebook: 'First Cut' Tells Stories Of Washington's Marijuana Farmers

"First Cut," a collaborative series produced in partnership with the Tacoma News Tribune, tells the stories of the farmers behind Washington's marijuana crop.

Correspondent Anna King and Tacoma News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader talked to Austin Jenkins about their joint effort.

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Washington Supreme Court
5:22 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Jailed In Washington? You Have A Right To A Bail Bondsman

This file photo shows the Washington state Supreme Court in Olympia, Washington.
Cacophony Wikimedia Commons

You’ve heard of your Miranda rights, but did you know that most state constitutions also give you a right to a bail bondsman?

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed that criminal defendants can go to a third-party, like a bondsman, who will put up bail for a fee.

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Law
4:59 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Court Rules Against Families Of Wildland Firefighters Killed In 2003

Mark Ransdell was a 23-year-old contract firefighter who died in a fiery van crash in 2003.
Courtesy of the Ransdell family.

These days, you can often find contract firefighters on the front lines. They’re usually indistinguishable from government firefighters.

But a recent court ruling has made it clear: if they’re killed in the line of duty, their families are not eligible for federal survivor benefits.

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Controversial Words
9:51 am
Wed July 30, 2014

How Twitter Amplified An NRA Lobbyist's Comments About Anti-Gun Jews

The Yes on 594 campaign used Twitter to quickly disseminate comments by NRA lobbyist Brian Judy.

Supporters of a Washington gun control measure on the November ballot may have just gotten a mid-summer boost. They’re capitalizing on an audio recording that recently surfaced.

The hard-to-understand audio recording first appeared on the left-wing blog “Horses Ass.” The blog’s author said the audio is of NRA lobbyist Brian Judy speaking recently to a pro-gun group. Judy questioned Jewish people who are anti-guns.

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Wildfire Damage
5:00 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Power Outages Persist In Fire-Swept North-Central Washington

A view of a smoke plume from the Cougar Flat Fire from Liberty Bell High School south of Winthrop, Washington.
Inciweb

The lights are coming back on in fire-swept north-central Washington. A major transmission line was restored late last week, but not everyone has their power back.

As of Monday about 900 customers remain in the dark as a result of the state’s largest wildfire.

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State Economy
6:25 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Washington Secretly Competed For Tesla ‘Gigafactory' Worth Thousands Of Jobs

An electric plug decal is seen on the back of a Tesla electric car.
Mel Evans AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tried to woo electric carmaker Tesla Motors to build a massive battery factory in the Evergreen state. But according to at least one report, the company may have already broken ground near Reno, Nevada.

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Law
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

ACLU Takes On Case Of Idaho Teen In Solitary Confinement

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

In north Idaho, a 15-year-old boy sits in an isolated jail cell awaiting trial for murder. Eldon Samuel III is accused of shooting to death his father and younger brother in March

Juveniles accused of crimes like this are automatically charged as adults in Idaho. But now, Samuel’s lawyer and the ACLU are trying to get him moved out of solitary confinement at the adult county jail. They say his isolation amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

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Other News
1:05 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Inslee Says Feds Will Help Restore Power In Fire Zone

Map of current large fire locations in the Northwest

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 5:42 pm

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Tuesday President Obama has pledged immediate federal aid to help fire-swept areas of north central Washington.

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Foster Care
4:59 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Judge Sides Again With Wash. Foster Youth

A judge in Bellingham has ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

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Campaign Finance
10:52 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Washington's Mid-Term Elections Draw In More Than Nearly $33 Million So Far

Washington Public Disclosure Commission

Washington’s Aug. 5 primary is now less than a month away. It’s a mid-term election year with no statewide offices on the ballot. Even so, nearly $33 million have already been contributed to campaigns.

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Washington Supreme Court
1:42 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Wash. Supreme Court Sides With Boyfriend In School Backpack Shooting Case

A Washington man whose loaded gun went off in a school backpack, critically injuring a student can’t be charged with third-degree assault, Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The split decision stems from a high-profile case in 2012 in Bremerton.

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Unemployment
4:29 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Washington Jobless Rate At 6-Year Low, But Rural Counties Still Lag

Washington’s jobless rate has dropped to below 6 percent — the lowest level in six years, according to the June jobs report released Wednesday.

Seattle’s King County is leading the recovery, but most Washington counties remain above the statewide average. And some rural counties of the state are much higher.

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Prison System
10:10 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Long Sentences, Aging Inmates May Strain Washington's Clemency

Layers of barbed wire surround Washington's Monroe Correctional Complex.
Justin Steyer KPLU

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority.

So what’s the solution? Washington could release some older inmates who are serving long sentences. But lawmakers are wary of a political backlash. The state abolished parole in the 1980s.

That leaves clemency as the remaining pressure-relief valve on the prison system. And that system of mercy may not be up to the task.

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