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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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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Explosion
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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Politics
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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Transportation
1:55 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Washington State Ferries Director Resigns

David Moseley
WSDOT

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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