Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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“Do you believe guns in the home make you less safe?”

“Who do you believe should legally be allowed to carry a concealed pistol on college campuses?”

Those are the kinds of questions political candidates are getting this year from gun control and gun rights groups.

Life in prison is no picnic. But imagine being blind or deaf or in a wheelchair behind bars.

A new report out Wednesday says state prison systems should be doing more to accommodate disabled inmates.

The end is near for a veteran-owned medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Olympia. It’s a casualty of the state merging recreational and medical marijuana.

Washington state Democrats are confident they will avoid a Nevada-like meltdown at their state convention this weekend. Nevada’s Democratic convention devolved into chaos after Bernie Sanders supporters felt the process was rigged.

The rainbow pride flag was raised over the Washington state Capitol Wednesday. It was then immediately lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of last weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando.

Planes and parachutes might be the best bet for getting supplies to cut-off areas in the event of a subduction zone earthquake. National Guard pilots and paratroopers practiced supply drops and parachute jumps Thursday.

There was a rumor a few weeks ago that Bernie Sanders was going to skydive into a rally in California. He didn’t end up doing that.

But recently two candidates for office in Washington state did jump out of an airplane. It was for a campaign kickoff event at the Shelton airport for Republican state Rep. Drew MacEwen. And he had a special guest in Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants oil trains to slow down and safety improvements to speed up. Inslee said Wednesday that he personally delivered that message to the CEO of Union Pacific and the executive chairman of BNSF over the last 48 hours.

Friday’s oil train derailment and fire comes as Washington state prepares to put new oil shipment safety rules into effect. In fact, the derailment in the Columbia Gorge happened just as the first public hearing on those rules was wrapping up in Vancouver, Washington.

Federal prosecutors say they intend to retry Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley after his first trial ended in April with the jury voting to acquit on one count and deadlocked on 14 others.

Lead prosecutor Andrew Friedman revealed the government’s intentions at a Tuesday morning status conference in the case at the federal courthouse in Tacoma. District Judge Ronald Leighton set a March 13, 2017 trial date.

Last month, a federal jury acquitted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley of lying to IRS agents, but deadlocked on 14 other charges related to his past real estate services business. Kelley will be back in court on Tuesday when a hearing could provide an answer to what happens next in the case.

It’s been five months since Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that over a 13-year period nearly 3,000 prison inmates were accidentally released early. Wednesday, Washington Senate Republicans issued a 66-page report that places significant blame for the problem not being fixed on former corrections Secretary Bernie Warner.

The highly-organized Washington campaign for Ted Cruz all but swept the delegate elections at the state GOP convention in Pasco over the weekend.

That means Cruz backers will dominate Washington state’s delegation to the Republican national convention in Cleveland this July, although they’ll be bound on the first ballot based on the outcome of Washington's presidential primary on Tuesday.

Washington Republicans will meet in the Tri-Cities Friday to select delegates to this summer’s national convention in Cleveland. They are describing this year’s presidential campaign as “a Reagan restart” and “an outsider’s election.”

Washington Republicans will ultimately coalesce around Donald Trump as the apparent presidential nominee. That’s the prediction of state Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison as her party gathers Wednesday for its state convention in the Tri-Cities.

‘Tis the season for campaign fundraising. That means candidates are dialing for cash and hosting at all manner of events to bring in the money. Some of them tried and true approaches and some a bit more novel.

A University of Washington study concluded about 30 football fields worth of marijuana are needed to serve the medical marijuana market in Washington. That translates to about two million square feet of canopy.

Currently, more than 12 million square feet are approved for production.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is back on the job after his federal criminal trial. And he’s firing back at Gov. Jay Inslee.

Last week Kelley asked for the resignation of his chief of staff and chief spokesman. Inslee demanded an explanation for the firings. Now Kelley has responded.

Drivers on Interstate 90 through eastern Washington won’t be able to legally go 75 miles per hour. That was the announcement Wednesday from the Washington Department of Transportation, the State Patrol and the state’s Traffic Safety Commission.

When apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump did a pre-primary campaign swing through the Northwest last weekend, he hopped between Eugene, Spokane and Bellingham aboard a Boeing 757 emblazoned with the word TRUMP in capital letters.

What do Realtors, teachers and unionized plumbers have in common?

According to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, these groups control the top political action committees in the state so far this year. So what exactly are they after?

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is demanding a formal explanation after State Auditor Troy Kelley asked two top staff members to resign and put a third on administrative leave. The shake-up follows Kelley’s full-time return to the office after his six-week federal trial.

If an Idaho state trooper stops an Idaho driver just across the Washington state line and a lawsuit ensues—whose case is it? The Washington Supreme Court Thursday said it’s basically a legal coin toss. 

Testing for lead in Washington schools is still voluntary seven years after the state passed rules to make it mandatory. That’s because state lawmakers never provided funding to pay for the testing.

The stories are heartbreaking. An infant rolls off a bed and suffocates on a plastic bag. A one-month-old dies while sleeping between two adults.

According to a report on child fatalities released Friday by Washington state’s Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds, unsafe sleep conditions are the leading cause of death for infants in whose families have come into contact with the child welfare system.

The state of Washington has struck a deal with the feds to keep Western State Hospital open and funded. The Department of Social and Health Services announced late Thursday that it will negotiate a Systems Improvement Agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

On the eve of a two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the tunneling project under Seattle’s waterfront will ultimately succeed.

The viaduct is closing to allow the tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha to dig underneath the double-decker structure. Under the original timeline the tunnel was supposed to be open by now and the viaduct long ago torn down.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley hugged and kissed his wife and shook his lawyers' hands as he was found not guilty Tuesday on a charge of making a false statement to the IRS. A federal jury in Tacoma deadlocked on the remaining 14 counts, including charges of possession of stolen property, money laundering and filing false tax returns.

The dramatic turn of events followed nearly four days of deliberations and comes almost exactly a year after Kelley was indicted by a federal grand jury. Prosecutors did not immediately indicate if they intend to re-try Kelley on any of the charges.

The jury in the federal criminal trial of Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley appears to be struggling to find agreement on at least one of the 15 counts. The jurors sent a question to the judge Monday asking what to do if they deadlock on a charge.

A Washington daycare provider has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Working Connections Child Care program to the tune of $250,000. The plea was entered Thursday in federal court in Seattle.

The state cracked down on these cases five years ago and this is the biggest one yet.

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