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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Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

 The Washington State Patrol has ticketed the driver of an oversize load that collapsed the Skagit River Bridge in May of 2013. 

The State Patrol announced the $550 fine Monday and released its final report, which concludes the oversize load was 2 inches over legal height.

Austin Jenkins

A crowd gathered at the state capitol today to celebrate Washington state’s 125th birthday. The celebration featured a historic reenactment, a time-capsule ceremony and, of course, cake.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Voter turnout in Washington state could be a 36-year low. Not since 1978 has such a small percentage of registered voters participated in a Washington election. 

The year 1978 was when Washington voters approved a ban on mandatory busing. That year, just 52percent of registered voters cast a ballot. Turnout this year in on tract to beat that, at 54 percent — 8 points lower than Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman projected back in September.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington voters are narrowly passing a class-size measure that comes with a multi-billion dollar price tag.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A Lynnwood, Washington man held prisoner for two years in North Korean is back home. Kenneth Bae landed Saturday night at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He was accompanied by Matthew Todd Miller, another freed American prisoner.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Washington Democrats appear to have failed in their bid to retake control of the state Senate. Early election returns Tuesday night showed Republicans holding onto their majority. Republicans were also poised to pick up seats in the Democratically-controlled Washington House. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington voters have overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to expand background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. Initiative 594 passed with 60 percent of the vote.

At the I-594 victory party in Seattle, campaign manager Zach Silk fired up the crowd.

“Washington state has voted yes on 594 and closed the background check loophole,” Silk said.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The campaigns are winding down. The ballot counting is about to begin. But in Washington state, we may not know the results of close races until later this week.

Washington State Legislature

Washington state has strict campaign contribution limits. But candidates and political donors are experts at finding ways around those caps.

One way they do this is through a practice called surplussing.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The current and former attorneys general of Washington state are among the subjects of a New York Times special report. The Times story details how companies under investigation by state AGs try to influence those cases. It also reveals how former AGs gain special access as industry representatives.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Republicans say an out-of-state Democratic group is trying to suppress the GOP vote in a hotly-contested Washington state Senate race.

The state Republican Party filed a formal election complaint Tuesday against a group called American Values First. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School Friday comes as Washington voters are about to decide two competing gun-related ballot measures.

In fact, next week two parents who lost children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are scheduled to be in Seattle to campaign for Initiative 594, which would expand background checks.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Political campaigns and committees in Washington have spent nearly $70 million so far this year. That includes statewide initiatives and legislative races.

So where’s all the money going? It’s everything from address labels to Zipcar rentals.

Austin Jenkins

The fate of a human-trafficking lawsuit against Backpage.com is now in the hands of the Washington Supreme Court. The justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that involves three underage victims of sex trafficking. The justices must decide if the lawsuit can proceed.

Harvey Barrison / Flickr

The top political spenders in Washington this election year include environmentalists, unions, trial lawyers and business interests.

But there’s a group of influential players who don’t necessarily show up in the campaign finance reports: lobbyists. They often work behind the scenes to guide campaign contributions on behalf the interests they work for. It’s another way that lobbyists exert their influence over the political process.

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