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.


Troublesome Static
10:16 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Lawmakers Raise Concerns About Troubled State Patrol Radio System

This is one of the Washington State Patrol’s new portable radios by Motorola.

Washington’s troubled State Patrol radio system is getting fresh scrutiny from state lawmakers. The Joint Transportation Committee got an update Wednesday on the $40 million conversion to digital technology.

The project is still on budget but behind schedule, and troopers have complained of garbled transmissions. One costly solution would be to erect new radio towers.

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Patrol Cars
4:21 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

After Less Than Two Years, Washington State Patrol Switching Back To Fords

The Ford Interceptor is the Washington State Patrol’s new vehicle of choice after a short and rocky experience with the Chevy Caprice.
Washington State Patrol

The Washington State Patrol is switching back to Ford police cruisers after a brief, but rocky dalliance with Chevy. The Patrol briefed key state lawmakers Wednesday on the decision to drop the Chevy Caprice as the patrol car of choice after less than two years.

Captain Rob Huss says the Caprice is assembled in Australia and deliveries for many of the cars were delayed, sometimes by months.

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State Supreme Court
3:49 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Wash. Supreme Court To Hear Lakewood Police Killings Challenge

FILE - Letricia Nelson, left, appears in Pierce County Superior Court, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, in Tacoma, Washington.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Nearly five years have passed since Maurice Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop. Clemmons’ aunt and cousin were convicted of helping him after the murders.

Now, their case is before the Washington Supreme Court on appeal. Oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday.

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Legal Marijuana
10:57 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Wash. Pot Grower Says Black Market Can Survive Legalization

Scott Johnson poses outside the Bellingham Towers where he used to own a restaurant and where his attorney has an office.
Austin Jenkins

Scott Johnson is one of those natural-born salesmen. He used to own a restaurant on the 15th floor of the Bellingham Towers, the tallest building in Bellingham.

“At first it was called ‘Top of the Towers, and then after about five years, I changed it to ‘City View Grill,’” he said.

Now Johnson comes to Bellingham Towers to see his lawyer, whose office is also here. Johnson has been sentenced to five years behind bars for his role in a long-running marijuana production and distribution ring.

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4:53 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Inslee Predicts Washington Will Adopt Controversial Fuel Standard

Kristen Steele Flickr

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington will likely adopt a California-style pollution limit on gasoline and other transportation fuels.

Inslee recently ordered a feasibility and cost study of a low-carbon fuel standard.

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10:17 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Victim Happy That Washington State Filed Crowdfunding Lawsuit

This screen grab from the Asylum Playing Cards' Kickstarter page shows the cards' designs.

One of the victims of an alleged crowdfunding scam says he’s not counting on getting his money back. But he’s glad Washington’s attorney general has filed a consumer protection lawsuit. It’s believed to be the first state action against a crowdfunding project sponsor.

Brad Lansford only lost $9, but he still feels burned. In 2012, he backed a Kickstarter project called Asylum Playing Cards.

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10:24 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Washington Governor Finds Billionaire Partner In Fight Against Climate Change

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

In the world of Democratic politics, Tom Steyer, a former California hedge-fund manager, is like a real-life Bruce Wayne, aka Batman.

Steyer is a billionaire philanthropist who wants to save not just Gotham City, but the entire planet, from global climate change.

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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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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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