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.


4:46 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

State To Investigate Explosion At Liquefied Natural Gas Plant

State and federal pipeline safety investigators have been dispatched to the site of an explosion and fire at a liquefied natural gas storage facility in southeastern Washington. LNG is natural gas that’s been cooled to a liquid form for easier storage. Five people were injured in the early morning blast Monday, but only one remains hospitalized.

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Oso Slide
2:12 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Oso Landslide Death Toll Could Eclipse 1910 Avalanche, Become Deadliest In State History

File photo of the wreck of one of the trains that was hit by an avalanche at Wellington, Wash., on March 1, 1910.
U.S. Library of Congress

The Oso landslide may go down in history as the deadliest natural disaster in Washington.

On March 1, 1910 an avalanche near Stevens Pass wiped out two snowbound trains killing 96 people. It was Washington’s worst natural disaster in terms of loss of life.

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Deadly Mudslide
7:18 am
Thu March 27, 2014

National Guard Searcher Describes ‘Sifting’ Through Crushed House

Washington National Guard searchers are assisting in the effort to locate victims of the Oso landslide in Snohomish County.
Washington National Guard

The Washington National Guard has now deployed two Black Hawk helicopters to the Oso landslide. On the ground, specially-trained search teams looked for victims in the mud and debris.

Master Sgt. Chris Martin described searching a single house caught in the path of the landslide, which has claimed 25 lives.

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Mudslide Rescue
3:30 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

First Trooper On Scene Of Landslide: 'It’s An Incredibly Helpless Feeling'

Trooper Rocky Oliphant emerges from the Oso landslide after assisting with the rescue of an infant boy. Oliphant was the first trooper on the scene of the disaster on Saturday.
Washington State Patrol

It was Saturday morning. State Trooper Rocky Oliphant was watching for speeders on Interstate 5 just north of the Highway 530 exit. Then a call came across his radio.

“Initially, [they] put out the call as a possible flood with a barn roof in the road,” he said.

Oliphant was about 20 miles away. He responded. As he got closer more information came in. It was a mudslide. He remembers coming around a corner.

“There’s basically no words to describe the amount of devastation. Houses in the road, roof in the road, random debris everywhere,” he said.

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3:09 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Wash. Senate Panel OKs $30 Per Diem Pay Hike

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Washington state senators are giving themselves a pay raise. Senators will get $120 a day in per diem when they are in session – up from the current rate of $90 a day. 

The Senate facilities and operations committee approved the increase  Tuesday in a split vote. 

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Drunk Driving
8:00 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Washington's New 24/7 Sobriety Program Runs Into Snags

Commander Jim Rich of the Centralia Police Department displays the breath test machine used for the 24/7 Sobriety pilot program.
Austin Jenkins

It’s been nearly a year since a repeat drunk driver caused a horrific accident in north Seattle. A new mother, her 10-day-old baby and her in-laws were run down as they crossed the street. The grandparents were killed, and the mother and her baby were critically injured.

That tragedy and other high-profile drunk driving crashes prompted Washington lawmakers to authorize a pilot program to test repeat drunk drivers twice-a-day to see if they have been drinking.

But the 24/7 Sobriety program has run into legal and financial snags.

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1:55 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Washington State Ferries Director Resigns

David Moseley

After six years on the job, the head of Washington State Ferries says he will step down on April 15.

David Moseley made his announcement Tuesday. His resignation comes as the nation’s largest ferry system continues to encounter choppy seas.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation
1:34 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Inslee: Feds Did Not Provide 'Comprehensive' Hanford Cleanup Plan

File image
AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says the U.S. Department of Energy is failing to provide him a “comprehensive” Hanford cleanup plan.

The Democrats’ comments follow a face-to-face meeting Monday with the secretary of energy who made a special trip to meet with the governor.

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Legislative Session
9:31 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Washington Legislature Adjourns Without Action On Medical Marijuana, Gas Tax

Legislative staff and others line up outside of the House chamber in advance of the Legislature adjourning its 60-day session, on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte AP Photo

The Washington Legislature adjourned its 60-day session just before midnight Thursday night.

In the final hours, lawmakers passed a bipartisan update to the state’s two-year budget. They also sent the governor a bill to give military veterans in-state tuition to attend college, and reauthorized a fee that pays for homeless housing.

But it’s what lawmakers did not do this Legislative session that may stand out most for voters.

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Budget Negotiations
12:31 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Budget Deal Struck In Washington Legislature

Austin Jenkins

Washington public schools will get an additional nearly $60 million, but teachers will not get a cost of living raise this year. That’s the upshot of a budget deal that’s being announced at the Capitol in Olympia.

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Defense Fund
5:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Facing Ethics Charge, Washington Lt. Gov Wants Legal Defense Fund

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen bangs the gavel as he conducts business in the Senate chamber 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

In the 1990s, an embattled President Bill Clinton created a legal defense fund. Now Washington Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen wants all state elected officials to have that option.

The Democrat, the state’s four-term lieutenant governor, is motivated by his own ethics troubles. 

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Lobbyists & Legislators
5:31 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Lobbyist-Paid Meals Legislation Appears To Die In Washington Statehouse

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Elaine Thompson AP Photo

It looks like Washington lawmakers may adjourn their 60-day legislative session without addressing the issue of lobbyist-paid entertainment. Free meals for lawmakers became an issue last year after we reported on several state senators who regularly allowed lobbyists to pick up the tab.

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Legislative Session
3:23 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

End In Sight For Washington Legislature, Still Plenty Of Work To Do

A few of the first daffodils of the season begin to bloom in view of the Capitol building Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Washington lawmakers are in the home stretch — or at least they hope they are.

The current 60-day session is supposed to adjourn this coming Thursday. But the House and Senate still have to agree on an update to the two-year budget. And that’s not the only major issue that remains unresolved.

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5:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Inslee, Teachers' Union Clash Over Evaluation Measure

File photo. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made the case for a controversial teacher evaluation bill.
biologycorner Flickr

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 3:12 pm

They supported his campaign, but now some unionized teachers in Washington have stern words for Governor Jay Inslee.

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1:33 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Washington Recoups Great Recession Job Losses, With Caveat

File image
Mary Altaffer AP Photo

It took four years, but Washington has now recovered more jobs than it lost during the Great Recession. But Wednesday’s announcement comes with a caveat.

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