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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Workplace Tragedy
10:56 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Shows Go On For Northwest Fireworks Company Shaken By Workplace Death

Ken Julian of Entertainment Fireworks stands near where a memorial will go for his friend and employee Bill Hill.
Austin Jenkins

People in the fireworks business say their job is to make people happy. But as the Fourth of July approaches, Entertainment Fireworks in Tenino, Washington, one of the largest fireworks companies in the Northwest, is reeling.

On June 18, a longtime seasonal employee was killed in an on-the-job explosion and fire.

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Minimum Wage
7:32 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Washington Supreme Court To Hear Sea-Tac Airport Minimum Wage Fight

File image
AP Photo

Should SeaTac’s voter-approved $15 per hour minimum wage apply to workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport? Washington’s Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that question today.

The case pits airport vendors, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle against supporters of the higher wage.

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Criminal Justice System
10:06 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Inslee Launches Review Of Prison Population Growth In Wash. State

Michael Coghlan Flickr

Washington state’s prison system is projected to need 1,000 new beds by 2018. And that growth has Gov. Jay Inslee concerned.

Inslee on Tuesday announced a Department of Justice-backed review of the state’s criminal justice system. The goal is to look for ways to save money without jeopardizing public safety.

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Military & Defense
9:12 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Death Of Northwest Soldier In California Puts Army Training Accidents In Spotlight

Private First Class Andrew Sass was killed in a training incident at Ft. Irwin, California.
U.S. Army

The death of a soldier based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over the weekend highlights the danger of training for war. Private Andrew Sass was killed Saturday in an incident at the National Training Center in California.

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Government Workings
3:07 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Wash. State's Volunteer Drivers Collect Tens Of Thousands In Mileage Reimbursements

This screenshot of Washington’s Open Checkbook shows the mileage reimbursements paid to volunteer driver Lavaughn Nuner in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.

Imagine driving your personal car for work so much that your boss cuts you a $10,000 mileage reimbursement check. That’s what happened recently at Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services.

But the person who got the check isn’t an employee, and she’s not the only one who’s logging high miles and collecting large reimbursements from DSHS. So far this fiscal year, the agency has reimbursed volunteer drivers more than $300,000.

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Legislators & Lobbyists
5:15 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Wash. Ethics Panel Gets Earful On Lobbyist-Paid Meals For Lawmakers

mathteacherguy Flickr

How often is “infrequent” when it comes to state lawmakers accepting free meals from lobbyists? Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board spent nearly two hours Tuesday taking testimony on that issue and then grappling with the answer. 

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Budget Cuts
4:13 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Gov. Inslee Directs State Agencies To Identify 15 Percent Cuts

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee is directing Washington state agencies to identify 15 percent cuts in the next budget. The directive comes as the latest revenue forecast released Tuesday shows an ongoing sluggish recovery.

State budget director David Schumacher says the budget-cutting exercise does not mean all agencies will be cut by 15 percent.

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Balance of Power
9:31 am
Tue June 17, 2014

School Funding Lawsuit Prompts Hearing On Separation Of Powers

File image
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

The Washington Supreme Court could hold state lawmakers in contempt over school funding. But is the high court overstepping its bounds? A Republican-led legislative panel held a hearing Monday on separation of powers.

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Resentencing Law
5:12 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Washington Juvenile Killers Could Get Second Chance At Release

FILE - In this April 9, 2010 file photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington.
Evan Vucci AP Photo

Nearly 30 juvenile killers currently serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in Washington could be eligible for release in the future, thanks to a new state law that took effect this month.

The law was passed in response to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that automatic sentences of life without parole for juvenile killers are unconstitutional. In response, the Washington state Legislature this year passed a law that requires new, individualized sentences for these aggravated murderers.

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Three-Strikes Law
4:40 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Another Three-Strikes Offender In Wash. State Wins Clemency Recommendation

Washington’s Clemency Board has recommended the release of another three-strikes offender serving life without parole. The 3-to-0 vote Friday followed testimony from King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg who supported the petition for mercy.

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Education Funding
9:39 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Washington Supreme Court Orders ‘State’ To Contempt Hearing In McCleary Case

File image
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

A frustrated Washington Supreme Court appears ready to hold state officials in contempt.

The high court late Thursday ordered the “state” to appear at a hearing in September to address the lack of a plan to fully fund basic education.

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Three-Strikes Law
2:08 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

As Washington Prisons Crowd, Could Some 'Lifers' Get A Second Look?

In 2009, three-strikes offender Stevan Dozier was granted clemency. He stands in front of a mural at King County Juvenile Court that reads “never lose hope.”

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 3:51 pm

Stevan Dozier's crimes were violent purse snatchings. The final time, he hit his 69-year old victim in the face, knocked her to the ground and stole her wallet. As a result, Dozier was one of the first to be sentenced under the voter-approved "three strikes" law back in 1994.

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Workplace Safety
9:43 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Washington Capitol Employees Train For Active Shooter Scenarios

Austin Jenkins

Get out. Hide out. Take out. That’s the lesson employees at the Washington state Capitol got Wednesday in a class on active shooters. The refresher course comes in the wake of recent high profile shootings in the Northwest.

The sign on the door to the legislative hearing room said it all: “Workplace Violence Prevention and Active Shooter Survival.” About 50 state legislative and executive branch employees showed up for the lunch-hour training.

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Oso Slide
9:26 am
Wed June 11, 2014

38 Oso Slide Legal Claims Filed Against State Of Wash., More Expected

Snohomish County Flickr

The deadly Oso landslide in March has resulted in a blizzard of legal claims against the state of Washington.

As of Tuesday, the state’s risk management office reports it has received 38 tort claims, which are precursors to a lawsuit. Claims have also been filed against Snohomish County.

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New Laws
5:00 am
Wed June 11, 2014

New Washington Laws Cover College Aid, Guns And Tanning

AP Photo

This is the week undocumented students in Washington will become eligible for state college tuition aid. The “Real Hope Act” is just one of dozens of new state laws that take effect Thursday, 90 days after the Washington legislature adjourned.

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