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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Washington Supreme Court
2:58 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Billions at Stake as State Supreme Court Hears Pension Cases

Cacophony / Wikipedia

The state Supreme Court on Thursday heard oral arguments in a pair of pension cases involving billions of dollars at stake. Unions for teachers and state employees want the high court to restore two benefits that were nixed due to their cost.

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Medical Marijuana
12:09 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Medical Pot Advocate: State's Proposed Overhaul Goes Too Far

Associated Press

An advocate of the state’s medical marijuana industry says the state regulators’ proposed rules go too far.

State regulators on Monday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the industry, including a registry of medical marijuana patients. Ezra Eickmeyer with the Washington Cannabis Association says the proposed rules go too far.

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State Supreme Court
11:48 am
Tue October 22, 2013

State High Court Hears Airplane Meal Workers Case

Several prepared meals are displayed with wine inside the Delta Airlines Gate Gourmet facility at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, Tuesday, April 22, 2008 in Erlanger, Ky.
David Kohl AP Photo/File Image

Washington’s Supreme Court will decide whether employers must accommodate the religious practices of their employees.

Justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit that involves four men who makes meals for airline passengers. Because they are not allowed to bring their own food to work, their employer, Gate Gourmet, provides them lunch. The men allege the meal choices did not accommodate their religious dietary restrictions. 

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medical marijuana
3:30 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

State Wants Medical Pot Registry, Tax Exemption, Lower Cap

Associated Press

Medical marijuana patients in Washington would have to register with the state if they don’t want to pay pot taxes. That’s just one recommendation issued Monday for sweeping changes to the state’s largely unregulated medical pot industry.

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Obituary
3:39 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Former Titan of Northwest Politics Tom Foley Dead at 84

In this June 1989 file photo, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley poses in his office in Spokane.
AP Photo

 

Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley has died of complications from strokes. He was 84.

The Democrat served nearly 30 years in Congress before being defeated in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

Foley had the distinction of becoming the first, and so far only, Speaker of the House from the Northwest. He was also the first Speaker defeated at the polls since the Civil War.

Foley grew up on Spokane’s South Hill, the son of a prominent judge. As a politician, he described himself as a “peace maker, not street fighter.” It might have been his Achilles heel.

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initiative on initiatives
7:01 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Tim Eyman’s Initiative on Initiatives Sparks Pushback

Washington grocers say Initiative 517 would infringe on their private property rights. Sponsors reject that claim.
Austin Jenkins

Over the years, Washington lawmakers have pondered ways to rein in the state’s initiative process. Now comes a ballot measure designed to make it easier to qualify for the ballot. Retailers and grocers are waving the “no” signs. But it’s Washington voters who will decide this initiative on initiatives next month.

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marijuana regulation
10:22 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

State Marijuana Rules Pave Way for Stores Next Year

Initiative 502 sponsor Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington with Liquor Board Deputy Director Randy Simmons after the Board formally adopted the rules for legal, recreational marijuana.

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has formally adopted 43-pages of rules for legal, recreational marijuana. The unanimous vote Wednesday caps a lengthy process that began after last year’s approval of legal pot.

There was no confetti, balloons or cake; more a sense of relief that the heavy-lifting is done. Washington’s three-person Liquor Board and its staff have been mired for nearly a year in the intricacies of how to regulate the growing, processing and selling of marijuana and marijuana-infused products.

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street culture
4:41 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Murder Reveals ‘Lord of the Flies’ Street Culture in Olympia

Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Dept. heads into a former homeless camp in Olympia where a murder took place last fall.
Austin Jenkins

On Washington’s Capitol campus in Olympia, sandstone buildings stand as monuments to the rule of law. But just a few blocks away you can find a street culture where young adults and teenagers live by their own rules—sometimes with tragic consequences. An especially grisly murder last year revealed an underworld in Washington’s capital city that can sound almost like it belongs in “Lord of the Flies.”

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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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