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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Lobbyists & Legislators
12:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

The influence game: Lobbyists wine, dine lawmakers after hours

Longtime business lobbyist Steve Gano and his wife often host Washington lawmakers at the house they own across from the Capitol campus.
Austin Jenkins

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session.

The spending begs the question: What are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

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special session
9:47 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Columbia River crossing funding hinges on special session

Columbia River Crossing

Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 3:28 pm

When Washington lawmakers return to Olympia in two weeks for a special session, Governor Jay Inslee is demanding they approve funding for the new Columbia River Crossing. The Democrat wants that funding included in a broader gas tax measure. But the governor faces opposition from the state senate - especially one powerful southwest Washington Republican: Senator Don Benton.

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special session
1:35 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Special legislative session will have political implications

Democratic State Senator Tim Sheldon, at podium, says he smells “a rat” when it comes to the timing of a special session of the Legislature.
Austin Jenkins

An expected special session of the Washington state Legislature would mean another freeze on political fundraising.

State law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting contributions while they are in session. For most members, that’s probably not a huge concern since this is an off-election year. But a few legislators will be on this year’s ballot.

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State Legislature
10:56 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Inslee: It would take 'inside straight' to avoid special session

Gov. Jay Inslee says an overtime session is likely.

Gov. Jay Inslee is like the gambler. He says it would take an “inside straight” for the Legislature to complete its work by Sunday’s deadline. 

A nearly $1 billion tax vote in the Washington House Wednesday has cleared the way for budget negotiations to begin in earnest at the Capitol. But an overtime session still appears likely. 

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Eyman's Tax Initiative
6:01 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Eyman's initiative: Annual votes on supermajority rule for tax hikes

Nearly two months have passed since the Washington Supreme Court tossed out a voter-approved two-thirds requirement for tax hikes.

On Monday anti-tax activist Tim Eyman proposed an initiative he describes as a “lobbying tool” to bring back the super majority rule. Eyman’s proposal would require annual advisory votes asking the public if it wants the Legislature to enshrine the two-thirds threshold into the state constitution.

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state budget
5:01 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Without budget deal, prospect of special session looms

Alan Cordova Flickr

It appears more likely that Washington lawmakers will go into an overtime session. The regular 105-day session ends this Sunday. But the House and Senate, along with the governor, still have to agree on a two-year budget deal. Even if a deal was at hand—and it doesn’t appear one is—they’d be cutting it close.

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DUI legislation
8:01 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

Proposed DUI crackdown gets pushback on multiple fronts

An ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system.
U.S. Department of Transportation

Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers want to move swiftly to crack down on repeat drunk drivers. This after two recent high profile tragedies in Seattle. But on Thursday, they got some pushback from judges, prosecutors, civil libertarians and even the restaurant industry.

It’s a classic case of the devil’s in the details. Take ignition interlock devices. There’s a proposal to install them at the impound lot after a drunk driver is arrested. But the installers say that isn’t technically feasible and lawyers question whether it’s legal prior to a conviction.

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Fake Wash. IDs for CIA
10:11 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Inslee: 'Broad' definition of law enforcement for false IDs

Gov. Jay Inslee says he would apply a “broad” interpretation to the term “law enforcement” when issuing fictitious driver’s licenses to undercover agents. The governor’s comment follows our report that the CIA has obtained nearly 300 so-called confidential Washington driver’s licenses since 2007.

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Fake Wash. IDs for CIA
10:54 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

House authorizes fake driver’s license program over objections

The Washington House has voted to allow the Department of Licensing to continue to issue fictitious driver’s licenses to undercover police officers. But with new safeguards. Even so, the vote late Tuesday came over the objections of some Republicans.

The Department of Licensing has issued so-called confidential driver’s licenses for decades. But it never had direct authorization from the Legislature to do so. 

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Law
6:05 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

Lawmakers consider special DUI driver license, alcohol bracelet

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, flanked by lawmakers, announces new proposed DUI legislation.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington may soon carry a scarlet letter driver’s license and have to wear an alcohol detection bracelet. Those are just two of the requirements contained in DUI legislation proposed Tuesday in Olympia.

The bipartisan plan follows two recent drunk driving tragedies in the Seattle area. 

House Public Safety Chair Roger Goodman says the ankle bracelet detects alcohol consumption and alerts authorities.

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Fake Wash. IDs for CIA
7:31 am
Tue April 16, 2013

CIA obtains false IDs from Wash. Dept. Of Licensing

In recent years, the state of Washington has issued nearly 300 fictitious driver licenses to the CIA. That number is according to public records initially disclosed, but now withheld, by state officials.

The state’s cooperation with the nation's premier spy agency has been a secret for years—unknown to lawmakers and even the governor.

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State Legislature
11:26 am
Sat April 13, 2013

66 Wash. lobbyists get warning letters for lack of transparency

 

More than 60 lobbyists in Washington have been sent warning letters for failing to submit monthly reports that detail how much they earned and how much they spent to lobby state lawmakers. 

“This letter is the only formal warning you will receive from PDC staff for not filing timely lobbying reports during 2013," said Lori Anderson of the Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, which issued the letters.

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State Legislature
9:00 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Fictitious driver license program may get more safeguards

Stricter guidelines may come to a program that lets undercover police officers in Washington obtain fictitious driver licenses. The Washington House could vote soon on a measure that would require additional safeguards to ensure the false IDs are not misused.

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Marijuana legalization
12:00 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

For regulators, legalizing pot all about ‘getting into the weeds’

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

When Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana last fall, they handed the state’s Liquor Control Board a regulatory nightmare. There’s no manual for how to create a safe and legal market for pot – something that’s never been done before.

State Representative Roger Goodman – speaking after a recent meeting on marijuana legalization – says the giggle factor is gone.

“Initiative 502 largely is about making marijuana boring. Because who cares about all this detail, technical, regulatory stuff," he said. "Well that’s what it’s all about is to get down into the weeds so to speak.”

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State Legislature
4:10 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

Senate budget: More money for education, no 'loophole' closures

The mostly Republican majority in the Washington state Senate has unveiled its budget proposal. It would put $1 billion more into basic education without raising taxes. The spending blueprint released Wednesday contrasts sharply with what Gov. Jay Inslee proposed last week.

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