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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government shutdown
3:20 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

No Plans to Reopen Wash. National Parks with State Funds

File image of Mount Rainier.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Gov. Jay Insee says he has no plans to reopen national parks and monuments using state dollars. President Obama has given states that option as the federal government shutdown stretches into its 11th day and beyond.

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Education funding
1:30 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

State Schools Superintendent Proposes Taxes for Education

File image
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington schools chief Randy Dorn says the time has come to raise taxes to increase funding for public education. And he’s prepared to lead the fight.

Dorn styles himself as a bit of a maverick. He says his job is to make adults uncomfortable. He recently gave the legislature a grade of “incomplete” for its first down payment on a Supreme Court decision that says Washington is not adequately funding public schools.

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Gun Control Initiative
10:09 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Supporters of Gun Background Checks Submit Signatures

Cheryl Stumbo, a survivor of the 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting carries a box of Initiative 594 petitions. Stumbo is the sponsor of the measure to require universal background checks for gun sales in Washington.
Austin Jenkins

Sponsors of an initiative to require universal background checks for gun sales in Washington have submitted 250,000 petition signatures, the minimum needed to put the measure before the Legislature in January. If lawmakers fail to act, voters would see it on the ballot a year from now.

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GMO food labeling
10:54 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Wash. Governor Undecided on GMO Initiative

File image
Damian Dovarganes AP Photo

It’s the hottest issue on Washington’s fall ballot: an initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, says he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote on Initiative 522.

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JBLM Soldier Death
5:11 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

3 JBLM Soldiers Jailed in Fatal Stabbing of Fellow Soldier

Three Washington-based soldiers are in jail in connection with the stabbing death of a fellow soldier over the weekend. The arrests came after the soldier who allegedly wielded the knife sought medical treatment for a cut to his hand.

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GMO food labeling
12:08 pm
Sat October 5, 2013

State's GMO Labeling Initiative Fires Up Global Food Industry

File image
Paul Sakuma AP Photo

Agribusiness and the food industry have pumped a record $17 million into Washington state to defeat Initiative 522, the ballot measure to require labeling of some foods and beverages with genetically engineered ingredients.

Before six months ago, it’s doubtful very many grocery shoppers in Washington had even heard the acronym GMO, much less could tell you what it stands for. Now, most people know it stands for genetically-modified organism.

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Affordable Care Act
2:51 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Washington Health Plan Website 'Cruising At 55'

Nelly Kinsella demonstrates the Washington Healthplanfinder website, where consumers will be able to shop for health insurance, following a news conference Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

After a rocky start, Washington’s Health Plan Finder website is now running smoothly, according to a spokesman for the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.

Michael Marchand said Friday users are not experiencing the same slowdowns and other problems that plagued the website earlier in the week.

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Affordable Care Act
11:55 am
Tue October 1, 2013

State Health Exchange Website Hits Snag on First Day

Nelly Kinsella demonstrates the Washington Healthplanfinder website, where consumers will be able to shop for health insurance, following a news conference Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Washington’s new health insurance exchange made a brief appearance Tuesday morning before going dark for much of the day. 

The site was supposed to come online at 7:30. Exchange officials say they quickly began receiving complaints that the site was loading slowly for some users, and not loading at all for others. Spokesman Michael Marchand says by 8:30, officials decided to pull the site offline to make repairs.

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regulating marijuana
6:01 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Labs Worry As Pot Testing Standards Lag

Caitlin Reece of Analytical 360 lab in Seattle prepares to test ground-up Cannabis-infused Purple Haze Goldfish crackers for potency.

Before legal marijuana in Washington hits store shelves, it will have to be tested. Special pot labs will check for potency, molds, foreign matter and bacteria like E. coli. It’s a key part of the recreational marijuana market approved by Washington voters last fall.

But setting the standards for how to lab-test pot turns out to be pretty complicated. And now some lab managers worry they won’t be ready in time.

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Pacific Tower
5:29 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Former Amazon Building Lease Could Cost $270M over 30 Years

Wonderlane Flickr

More than $270 million over 30 years. That’s how much it could cost the state of Washington to lease and operate the former headquarters of Amazon.com.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers voted to turn the building into a new training center for future health care workers. The preliminary cost estimate is contained in documents released as part of a public records request.

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misuse of funds
10:20 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Sen. Dems: Misuse of Campaign Funds Might Have Cost Key Race

<> Flickr

Washington Senate Democrats say the misuse of campaign funds last year may have cost them a key race, and consequently, control of the state Senate. The acknowledgement on Wednesday came as prosecutors filed theft charges against a former top campaign committee staffer.

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lobbyists & legislators
1:15 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

New Lobbyist Meal Form to Distinguish ‘Chowder’ from ‘Steak’

<> Flickr

The staff at Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission has recommended changes to how lobbyists report their meals out with lawmakers. The move follows our investigation last spring with the Associated Press into lobbyist-paid entertainment.

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medical marijuana
11:40 am
Thu September 19, 2013

High Court Sides with Non-Card-Carrying Medical Pot Patient

File image
AP Photo

The Washington state Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card.

In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

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border to border
11:07 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Drugs, Guns, and Money: Anatomy of a West Coast Trafficking Ring

A trial exhibit that shows the geographic scope of the Berrelleza-Verduzco trafficking ring.
Court Exhibit: U.S. v. Anchondo

Editor’s Note: Mexican drug cartels operate an illicit export business that depends on freeways that run from California and Arizona to Canada. If you drive these freeways, chances are you’ve passed a car or truck secretly holding a cargo of heroin, meth, or cocaine.

This week we’ll take you inside the world of drug-trafficking, an illegal business that touches every city, every small town in every state in the west. In the first part of our series Border to Border Drugs, correspondent Austin Jenkins introduces us to a smuggling ring that operated from Arizona to Washington state.

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On Jan. 21, 2012 at 8:37 in the evening, federal agents intercepted a phone call. It was between a man named Victor Berrelleza-Verduzco and one of his associates, Jose.

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labor dispute
9:37 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Longshoremen Take Down Picket Line; Bertha to Resume Digging

WSDOT

The tunnel-boring machine known as Big Bertha will resume digging after longshoremen agreed to remove their picket line which had been in place since Aug. 20.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 agreed to let the project resume despite an unresolved labor dispute with the project contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, over four jobs.

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