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.

Pages

Gun control initiative
4:03 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Bill And Melinda Gates Contribute to Wash. Gun Control Measure

FILE - Bill and Melinda Gates attend the Millennium Development Goals event, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at U.N. headquarters.
Mary Altaffer Associated Press

Bill and Melinda Gates have each contributed $25,000 to the campaign to require background checks for most gun sales in Washington. The couple’s personal contributions late last month helped push the Yes on Initiative 594 campaign over the $1 million mark.

Read more
marijuana licenses
1:07 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

State Pot License Investigators to Look for 'Hidden Ownership'

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

Read more
Pacific Tower
5:01 am
Tue November 12, 2013

State's Past Real Estate Pick Proved Money-Loser

Nick Cockrell with Washington’s Department of Enterprise Services gives a tour of the state-owned Rhodes Center in Tacoma, Wash.
Austin Jenkins

The state of Washington is expected to sign a 30-year lease Tuesday for Seattle’s iconic Pacific Tower, or the so-called PacMed building, on Beacon Hill. The idea is to turn the former headquarters of Amazon.com into a hub for health care innovation and training. 

The plan is reminiscent of another big real estate decision the state made nearly 20 years ago—one that’s proven costly.

Read more
boeing package
10:07 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Gas Tax or No Gas Tax in Special Session?

This image shows the Boeing 777x assembly line in Everett, Wash.
Ashley Gross KPLU

As Washington lawmakers convene in an effort to win production of the next Boeing 777x, there’s already a dispute over whether one of the must-haves is a gas tax package for transportation improvements.

Gov. Jay Inslee insists the time is now, but some lawmakers say road funding can wait.

Read more
initiative 522
8:45 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Wash. State Voters Defeating GMO Labeling Initiative

Initiative 522 supporters listen to speeches after early vote returns showed the measuring trailing by nearly double-digits.
Austin Jenkins

 

A Washington state ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods is failing in early returns.

The campaign over Initiative 522 has been one of the costliest initiative fights in state history, drawing millions of dollars from out of state.

Read more
initiative 522
8:13 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Power of Messaging on Display in GMO Labeling Fight

Associated Press

Voters are about to decide whether Washington becomes the first state in the nation to label some genetically engineered foods.

A poll last month showed Initiative 522 with a 4-point lead and 12-percent of voters still undecided.

Read more
Development
10:12 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Deal or Debacle? Terms of PacMed Building Lease Raise Questions

Wonderlane Flickr

The state of Washington is about to make a major real estate decision on a Seattle landmark that supporters say will transform health care training for the next generation.

The proposed lease of Seattle’s Pacific Tower, or the PacMed building as it's sometimes called, has been called “a nightmare.”

Powerful interests, including Washington’s Speaker of the House, want to turn the former Amazon headquarters into a training center for future health care workers and a hub for nonprofit groups. But internal state agency documents raise serious questions about the terms and cost of the deal.

Read more
transportation package
5:10 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Governor, Lawmakers Meet on Transportation

Gov. Jay Inslee has said he wants a transportation funding package on his desk by the Apple Cup at the end of November. Key lawmakers met with the Democratic governor Wednesday on this topic.

Afterward, Sen. Tracey Eide, co-chair of the Senate Tranportation Committee, was noncommittal when asked whether there will be a special session of the Legislature in November.

Read more
Washington Supreme Court
2:58 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Billions at Stake as State Supreme Court Hears Pension Cases

Cacophony / Wikipedia

The state Supreme Court on Thursday heard oral arguments in a pair of pension cases involving billions of dollars at stake. Unions for teachers and state employees want the high court to restore two benefits that were nixed due to their cost.

Read more
Medical Marijuana
12:09 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Medical Pot Advocate: State's Proposed Overhaul Goes Too Far

Associated Press

An advocate of the state’s medical marijuana industry says the state regulators’ proposed rules go too far.

State regulators on Monday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the industry, including a registry of medical marijuana patients. Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association says the proposed rules go too far.

Read more
State Supreme Court
11:48 am
Tue October 22, 2013

State High Court Hears Airplane Meal Workers Case

Several prepared meals are displayed with wine inside the Delta Airlines Gate Gourmet facility at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, Tuesday, April 22, 2008 in Erlanger, Ky.
David Kohl AP Photo/File Image

Washington’s Supreme Court will decide whether employers must accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

Justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that involves four men who makes meals for airline passengers. Because they are not allowed to bring their own food to work, their employer, Gate Gourmet, provides them lunch. The men allege the meal choices did not accommodate their religious dietary restrictions. 

Read more
medical marijuana
3:30 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

State Wants Medical Pot Registry, Tax Exemption, Lower Cap

Associated Press

Medical marijuana patients in Washington would have to register with the state if they don’t want to pay pot taxes. That’s just one recommendation issued Monday for sweeping changes to the state’s largely unregulated medical pot industry.

Read more
Obituary
3:39 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Former Titan of Northwest Politics Tom Foley Dead at 84

In this June 1989 file photo, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley poses in his office in Spokane.
AP Photo

 

Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley has died of complications from strokes. He was 84.

The Democrat served nearly 30 years in Congress before being defeated in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

Foley had the distinction of becoming the first, and so far only, Speaker of the House from the Northwest. He was also the first Speaker defeated at the polls since the Civil War.

Foley grew up on Spokane’s South Hill, the son of a prominent judge. As a politician, he described himself as a “peace maker, not street fighter.” It might have been his Achilles heel.

Read more
initiative on initiatives
7:01 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Tim Eyman’s Initiative on Initiatives Sparks Pushback

Washington grocers say Initiative 517 would infringe on their private property rights. Sponsors reject that claim.
Austin Jenkins

Over the years, Washington lawmakers have pondered ways to rein in the state’s initiative process. Now comes a ballot measure designed to make it easier to qualify for the ballot. Retailers and grocers are waving the “no” signs. But it’s Washington voters who will decide this initiative on initiatives next month.

Read more
marijuana regulation
10:22 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

State Marijuana Rules Pave Way for Stores Next Year

Initiative 502 sponsor Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington with Liquor Board Deputy Director Randy Simmons after the Board formally adopted the rules for legal, recreational marijuana.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has formally adopted 43-pages of rules for legal, recreational marijuana. The unanimous vote Wednesday caps a lengthy process that began after last year’s approval of legal pot.

There was no confetti, balloons or cake; more a sense of relief that the heavy-lifting is done. Washington’s three-person Liquor Board and its staff have been mired for nearly a year in the intricacies of how to regulate the growing, processing and selling of marijuana and marijuana-infused products.

Read more

Pages