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
12:08 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

2014 Elections Will Loom Over Wash. Legislative Session

In this photo taken Jan. 9, 2014, the Legislative Building at the Washington state Capitol in Olympia, Wash., is shown as rain falls on the sundial in the foreground.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington lawmakers convened Monday for what could prove to be the most partisan session in a decade. Control of the Washington Senate is up for grabs this fall, and both sides will be looking for political advantage over the next 60 days.

Currently, a coalition of 24 Republicans and two breakaway Democrats hold a three-seat advantage. Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in November.

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Transportation Package
5:00 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Inslee’s Optimism May Not Be Enough For Gas Tax Package

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks about the upcoming legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the AP Legislative Preview in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Gov.  Jay Inslee says he will continue to push for a gas tax package in the 60-day session that starts Monday. But a key transportation leader in the State Senate signaled last Thursday that prospects for a deal may be dimming.

Nearly a decade has passed since the last gas tax increase passed in Washington. Now leaders on both sides of the aisle agree another multi-billion dollar roads and transit package is needed.

But the details are the topic of heated debate in the state Capitol. A dozen negotiating sessions this fall ended with promises to resume talks this month.

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Pension Funds
4:49 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

State Senator Proposes End To Pensions For Elected Officials

File image
AP Photo

A Washington state senator says if 401(k) plans are good enough for Boeing machinists, they should be good enough for those who hold elected office.

Republican John Braun on Wednesday said he will introduce legislation to end pensions for all elected officials in Washington.

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Politics
2:54 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

In Attempt To Resurrect Anti-Tax Rule, Eyman Files Measure With Costly Caveat

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2012, file photo, professional initiative promoter Tim Eyman shakes hands with a supporter in Bellevue, Wash.
Stephen Brashear AP Photo

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is kicking off the new year with a new initiative. 

Eyman's new ballot proposal aims to resurrect the requirement that tax hikes get a two-thirds majority in the Legislature or be referred to the people. And this time, Eyman has designed a hammer to get the Legislature to act.

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DUI Program
5:01 am
Tue December 31, 2013

New Year Brings Sobriety Testing For Repeat Drunk Drivers

File image
LM Otero AP Photo

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington who get arrested in the new year may find themselves ordered to blow into a breathalyzer twice a day. Starting Jan. 1, three counties and two small cities will begin piloting a 24/7 sobriety program modeled after one in South Dakota.

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Law
5:01 am
Fri December 27, 2013

New Wash. Laws: Rioting Gets Name Change, Seahawks Fandom Licensed

November 1999 photo of WTO protests in Seattle.
Isabel Esterman Flickr

 

After Jan. 1, rioting will still be a crime in Washington, but it will get a new name. And Seahawks fans will have a new way to show their loyalty to the team.

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Affordable Care Act
5:01 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Recruiting Prison Health Care Workers Could Get Harder Under Obamacare

Eric Larsen is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner for the Washington Department of Corrections.
Eric Hernandez Washington Department of Corrections

It’s no easy task to find doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to take a job in a prison. The stigma alone is a major barrier. Not to mention concerns about personal safety.

Plus, prisons are often in out-of-the-way places.

Now, recruiting and retaining prison health care workers may get even harder because of the Affordable Care Act.

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Lobbyists & Legislators
12:39 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Free Meal Complaint Against Lawmakers Dismissed, ‘Serious Concerns’ Remain

mathteacherguy Flickr

Five Republican state senators did not violate Washington ethics law when they accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists earlier this year, according to a ruling made public Friday by Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board.

However, the board added the situation raises “serious questions” and an “enforceable” rule is needed.

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Minimum Wage
5:18 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Governor Inslee Says It's Time For Statewide Minimum Wage Discussion

In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 photo, wheelchair attendant Erick Conley, left, assists an elderly passenger heading overseas at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time for a discussion on raising the state’s already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage. The Democrat’s comments Thursday come in the wake of a vote in the city of SeaTac and a new push by Seattle Mayor-Elect Ed Murray to raise the local minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The governor stopped short of calling for a $15 statewide minimum wage.

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Boeing Package
1:16 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Inslee On Boeing’s Demands: ‘No, It Is Not Fair, But It is Real’

FILE - Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a signing event for legislation to help keep production of Boeing's new 777X in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says he stands by the decision to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks to Boeing in an effort to win the 777X. But in comments made Thursday, he made it clear he doesn’t like playing the corporate tax subsidy game. 

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Transportation Package
9:53 am
Thu December 19, 2013

No Deal On Gas Tax Package, Talks To Resume In January

Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee’s hopes for a gas tax package agreement before the end of the year have been dashed. The Democrat announced  Wednesday evening that with no deal at hand, talks are over for now, but will resume in January.

Inslee made his announcement flanked by House and Senate transportation leaders. It follows a dozen negotiating sessions in recent weeks. Among the roadblocks to agreement: a dispute over whether to put sales tax proceeds from transportation projects back into transportation instead of the state’s general fund.

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Legal Marijuana
10:39 am
Wed December 18, 2013

RAND Study: Pot Use In Washington Double Original Projections

presensa420 Flickr

The amount of marijuana smoked, eaten and otherwise consumed in Washington each year is double the original projections, according to a long-awaited study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation.

The findings come as Washington prepares to license hundreds of new marijuana businesses.

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State Budget
1:13 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Inslee Proposes More Prison Beds, But No Teacher COLAs In Budget Update

Members of the Washington Education Association wore these buttons to the governor's supplemental budget rollout to signify five years without voter-approved cost-of-living increases.
Austin Jenkins

More prison beds, but no cost-of-living raises for school teachers were the two takeaways after Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday proposed a modest update to the state’s two-year budget.

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Legal Marijuana
5:02 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Seed-To-Sale Tracking Alone Won’t Stop Marijuana 'Leakage'

As Washington moves to legalize recreational pot, the U.S. Department of Justice is prioritizing preventing so-called “leakage” to other states like Oregon and Idaho.

Barcodes will help the state track marijuana from seed to sale. But technology alone won’t keep Washington pot in Washington. And some think the concern about leakage is overblown.

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Obituary
4:23 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Foster Care and Public Defense among Justice Chambers’ Legacies

Former Washington Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers died of cancer at age 70.
Credit: Chambers Retirement Video 2012

In 12 years on the Washington Supreme Court, Justice Tom Chambers authored two groundbreaking opinions: one on foster care, the other on indigent defense. The former justice died late Wednesday at the age of 70.

In 2003, Chambers wrote the unanimous majority opinion in a case that put a spotlight on how often foster children in Washington bounce from home to home. 

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