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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Jurors in the trial of Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley heard from Jason Jerue, a witness who is testifying under a grant of immunity from the federal government. He took the stand Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Tacoma.

The Washington Legislature has adjourned. And now the campaign season has begun. Within hours of the final gavels falling Tuesday night, fundraising pleas went out.

After weeks of gridlock, the Washington House and Senate have reached an agreement on an update to the state’s two-year budget. The deal announced late Monday ends weeks of gridlock that resulted in a 30-day special session.

A 30-day special session of the Washington Legislature is about half over. But there’s still no agreement between Senate Republicans and House Democrats on an update to the state’s two-year budget. Sharp moments of election-year partisan tensions have been on display since lawmakers convened in January.

Officer Jayme Biendl was murdered by an inmate in the chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex in 2011. Her death spawned a major prison safety initiative in Washington.

A state performance audit released Tuesday concluded that Washington prisons are safer five years after Biendl's murder, but safety gaps still persist that put staff at risk.

A driver’s license and proof of insurance are two basics before getting behind the wheel. But Washington state auditors couldn’t find those documents for four volunteer drivers who ferried foster youth to appointments.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is on trial for pocketing real estate closing fees that prosecutors say should have been refunded to homeowners. But emails introduced into evidence Thursday call into question whether his company was the only real estate services firm that failed to issue consumer refunds during the housing bubble of the 2000s.

A former manager for Fidelity National Title escrow offices in western Washington testified Wednesday that State Auditor Troy Kelley promised to track real estate reconveyances for a $15 flat fee and refund leftover funds to customers.

A defense attorney for Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley moved for a mistrial moments after a federal prosecutor had concluded his opening statement in the money laundering and tax evasion trial against Kelley.

Opening arguments are expected Tuesday afternoon in the money laundering and tax evasion trial of Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. But first a jury of 12 plus two alternates must be empaneled.

A fresh budget proposal and some partisan sparks. That’s how a special session of the Washington legislature kicked off Friday. Senate Republicans went public with their latest budget offer and House Democrats quickly cried foul.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

State lawmakers adjourned their 60-day session last night, after failing to reach agreement on an update to the state’s two-year budget.

In response, Governor Jay Inslee followed through on a threat to veto several bills. He also immediately called a special session of the legislature to finish its work. KPLU’s Austin Jenkins reports.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled voter-approved charter schools unconstitutional last fall. Now it appears they will get a second chance after the Washington House voted Wednesday night to fund charters with lottery proceeds, not general funds.

The clock is running out on Washington’s 60-day legislative session. House Democrats and Senate Republicans have until Thursday at midnight to approve an update to the state’s two-year budget. But first they need to agree on the details.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that another former Washington Department of Corrections official has resigned over the accidental early release of nearly 3,000 prison inmates. Four other employees have been disciplined.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has a blunt warning for state lawmakers:

“Your bills are going to get vetoed if you don’t do your job and pass a budget.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has notified around 13,000 homeowners in connection with the real estate services fraud case against Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. The notifications went to former customers of two title companies that contracted with Kelley before he was elected state auditor.

A fight over the state budget could send Washington lawmakers into overtime. Or, the legislature could adjourn without updating the state’s current two-year spending plan. The lead budget writer in the Washington House raised both of those scenarios Thursday.

The Washington Legislature has no plans to impeach indicted State Auditor Troy Kelley. And now it’s clear he also won’t be recalled from office.

Washington state abolished parole more than 30 years ago. Now, there’s a push by some inmate advocates to bring parole back. They had a chance to make their case Tuesday before a panel of state lawmakers.

Partisan tensions are building over the early release of nearly 3,000 Washington prison inmates that resulted in two deaths. Republicans held a third hearing Monday into the matter.

The state of Washington spends about $1 billion per year on prescription drugs -- that’s state and federal funds. And the cost has been going up. Now some state lawmakers are wondering if there’s a way to drive a better bargain. Or at least shed some new light on how drugs are priced.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has released a 52-page investigative report by two former federal prosecutors, Carl Blackstone and Robert Westinghouse, into the early release of nearly 3,000 prison inmates over a 13-year period. Those releases resulted in two deaths.

The stage is set in Olympia for a fight over eliminating tax breaks and whether to dip into the state’s rainy day fund. House Democrats say ‘yes’ to both. Senate Republicans say ‘no’.

Washington Republicans have said the state Supreme Court’s sanction over school funding “presents a clear threat” to separation of powers. Now the chief justice of the Supreme Court is offering her perspective.

More than a decade ago, Washington voters approved a ballot measure requiring performance audits of state and local government programs. But now Washington’s deputy state auditor says funding for those performance audits is imperiled. And she’s concerned it’s because of elected auditor Troy Kelley’s legal troubles.

The state lawyer at the center of an early release error involving Washington prison inmates has testified under oath for the first time. Two deaths are attributed to the mistake.

Washington lawmakers plan to tap the state’s rainy day fund to pay for last summer’s devastating wildfires. But legislative Democrats said several other crises also deserve immediate funding.

The accidental early release of nearly 3,000 Washington prison inmates will be the subject of a three hour legislative hearing Monday. Meanwhile, the findings of a separate investigation ordered by Governor Jay Inslee are expected to be released this week.

A Washington state correctional officer is recovering at home after a vicious assault. The attack came almost five years to the day after another prison guard was murdered. This latest incident is renewing questions about staffing levels inside Washington’s prisons.

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