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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Washington lawmakers are approaching the halfway mark of their 105-day session. Hot issues include marijuana, mental health, oil trains and cap-and-trade.

But the heavy lift for lawmakers will be writing a new two-year operating budget that increases funding for public schools. Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will unveil dueling budget proposals in the weeks ahead.

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

 

Washington lawmakers are in contempt of court over school funding. But it’s a couple of non-funding issues that could create a partisan rift.

Republicans are back this year with two controversial school reform measures. One would require teacher layoffs to be based on performance, not seniority. The other would make student performance on a statewide standardized test part of a teacher’s annual evaluation.

Austin Jenkins

 

The case of an infant who nearly died from severe abuse has captured the attention of Washington lawmakers. The child’s adoptive parents testified Tuesday in favor a proposed law named in their son’s honor.

“Aiden’s Law” would require Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services to conduct a formal review in near-fatal child abuse and neglect cases.

Colin Fogarty

 

Washington lawmakers are considering whether to beef up oversight of the party bus industry. At a public hearing Monday, the head of the state agency that regulates in-state bus lines said it’s a matter of safety.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

 

A bipartisan group of Washington state senators is backing an 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.

The 16-year proposal was rolled out late Thursday at the Capitol. The higher gas tax would help fund a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package.

Austin Jenkins

 

Washington is under court order to keep foster youth from running away. So the state now has a team of “locators," social workers whose job it is to find runaways and bring them back.

Mike Stamp is one of these locators.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Three Washington state senators received a boost in their per diem last month, despite previously saying they wouldn’t take a raise in their daily allowance.

In March 2014, a Washington Senate committee narrowly voted to increase the reimbursement senators get when they’re in session to $120 a day, a $30 increase.

Austin Jenkins

 

Audio Pending...

Rural Thurston County in Washington is the kind of place people move to for a little elbow room. But if you’re a teenager from the suburbs, life can be less than exciting.

The day 19-year-old Amber Armstrong arrived at her foster home five years ago, she starting plotting her escape.

Keenen Brown / Flickr

 

Washington lawmakers are considering whether to exempt amateur athletes from state labor laws.

The move comes as Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams remain under investigation for possible child labor violations.

M Glasgow / Flickr

 

We’ve seen rallies and demonstrations against Washington’s new voter-approved background check law. But now a gun rights group is planning a “we will not comply” gun show.

It’s dubbed the Arms Expo. It’s scheduled for the weekend of June 20 in the Yakima area at a location yet to be announced. A website bills the event as a gun show and “patriot campout for the whole family.” And it promises “no background checks, no paperwork, no infringement.”

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental health advocates in Washington are assailing a proposal to allow psychiatric boarding in limited cases.

Boarding is when mental health patients are held involuntarily in a non-psychiatric setting, like an emergency department. It was a widespread practice in Washington until last year when the Supreme Court ruled it was illegal.

Colin Fogarty

 

Paid sick leave and a boost in the minimum wage are among the top priorities of organized labor in Washington state this year.

Democrats in the legislature have embraced both ideas. But Republicans and business interests remain wary. Adding to the politics is the fact Seattle has already adopted these policies.

Fanduel.com

 

On the eve of the Super Bowl, Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to legalize fantasy sports contests.

This is where sports fans build an imaginary team based on the stats of real players. They then compete in a league with other participants.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Nearly two years after public radio and the Associated Press investigated lobbyist-paid meals for Washington lawmakers, the issue is still a topic of discussion in the legislature.

A Senate panel Thursday took testimony on two proposals related to gifts of food and beverage.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

 

Gas prices have plummeted, but Washington’s gas tax could soon go up.

Republican Curtis King, the chair of the Senate Transportation committee, is looking at an 11.5-cent per gallon increase phased in over three years. It would help fund a $14 billion transportation package with projects on both sides of the Cascades.

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