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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state budget
11:24 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Positive revenue news could break budget logjam in Olympia

There’s suddenly a flurry of talk in Olympia about a quick resolution to the weeks-long budget stalemate. The change in rhetoric follows Tuesday’s positive revenue and caseload forecasts.

Budget writers will now have more than $300 million in additional funds to help bridge their differences, thanks to a recovering housing market and improved consumer confidence.

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Washington Budget
2:09 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Government shutdown? Prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not

Office of the Governor

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 3:10 pm

Washington prisons would stay open, but much of the state would not if there’s a government shutdown. Governor Jay Inslee met with his cabinet Wednesday to begin contingency planning if there’s no budget by the end of the month. That’s the start of the new fiscal year.

“We’re not talking about opening the prison doors because there are clear federal mandates from the federal constitution and federal laws to provide for folks that are in our care and custody,” says Nick Brown, the Governor’s attorney.

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Washington Budget
11:09 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Washington estate tax refunds halted after midnight bill signing

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 3:16 pm

There were dramatic developments in Olympia overnight. Governor Jay Inslee held a midnight bill signing to amend Washington’s estate tax. The move means the Department of Revenue will not begin to issue refund checks Friday morning to the heirs of some multi-million dollar estates.

The state of Washington was about to embark on a months-long process of refunding an estimated $140 million to more than 100 estates. This was the result of a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The money would have come out of a fund dedicated to public schools.

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Washington Legislature
3:15 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Washington Legislature Convenes Second Special Session

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 2:41 pm

The opening gavel has once again fallen in the Washington legislature.

"The second extraordinary session of the 63rd legislature will now be in order,” said a deadpan Lt. Governor Brad Owen Wednesday morning in the state Senate.

The second overtime session is necessary because lawmakers have yet to find agreement on a budget for the next two years. Taxes and controversial policy measures are the chief hang ups.

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Washington Legislature
11:45 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Inslee Announces Second Special Session, Prepares For Government Shutdown

Christina Salerno TVW

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 3:46 pm

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will call lawmakers back into a second special session beginning at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. He’s also beginning preparations for a government shutdown on July 1 if there’s no deal by then.

The moves come as the 30th and final day of the first overtime session comes and goes with still no budget deal.

At a news conference, Democrat Inslee blamed the stalemate on the mostly Republican Senate Majority for insisting on several controversial policy measures he says are unrelated to the budget.

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marijuana regulation
4:30 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Critics call state's new pot logo promotional

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has been inundated with feedback on its proposed marijuana regulations. The deadline to submit comments was Monday. The Board is writing the rules for legalized cannabis. Among the many concerns: the state’s new pot logo.

It’s called the Produced in Washington icon. It’s an outline of the state with a marijuana leaf in the middle. The idea was to require this label be affixed to any package containing marijuana sold at a retail store.

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State Budget
9:01 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Time Is Nearly Up For Washington Budget Deal

Cacophony Wikimedia

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 7:55 am

Washington’s overtime legislative session ends at midnight on Tuesday. But there’s still no agreement on a state budget for the next two years.

Over the weekend, the mostly Republican senate majority passed a revised version of its own spending plan, along with a trio of controversial policy measures.

The three policy bills are not new, the Senate passed them during the regular session. The difference is two of them now have referendum clauses, meaning voters would get the final say.

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Washington Legislature
9:58 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Washington Senate majority back to 25 members

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 3:35 pm

The Washington Senate’s coalition caucus has reclaimed its majority status. Republican Steve O’Ban was sworn in Wednesday. He fills the seat of the late Mike Carrell who died last week during treatment of a pre-leukemia condition.

O’Ban’s appointment was fast-tracked in order to restore the mostly Republican coalition’s one vote majority during final budget negotiations.

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special session
3:59 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

State budget impasse prompts finger-pointing

mathteacherguy Flickr

There’s one week left in Washington’s special legislative session and still no budget deal. Gov. Jay Inslee and the Senate majority caucus held dueling news conferences Tuesday, complete with plenty of finger-pointing.

The governor went first. Inslee, a Democrat, blasted the mostly-Republican senate majority for an estate tax measure that passed out of committee late last week. Inslee called it a new tax break for more than 200 wealthy Washingtonians at the expense of public schools.

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lobbyists & legislators
4:00 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Lawmakers fault lobbyists' expense-reporting system

mathteacherguy Flickr

A public radio investigation into lobbyist-paid meals has prompted an ethics complaint against three state lawmakers.

The complaint was filed this week by an open government advocate named Arthur West, who alleges the two Republicans and one Democrat violated the rule that states lawmakers can accept free meals only on an “infrequent” basis.

Meanwhile, some legislators say they’re the victims of flaws in the system used by lobbyists report entertainment expenses.

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lobbyists & legislators
12:17 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Several state lawmakers eat frequently on lobbyists' dime

mathteacherguy Flickr

Washington state lawmakers are barred from accepting gifts intended to influence their vote. But there’s an exception to that rule. Members of the Legislature are allowed to accept free food and drinks if it’s related to their official duties, but only on an “infrequent” basis.

However, a public radio investigation, conducted in cooperation with the Associated Press, reveals that dozens of state legislators frequently accept meals from lobbyists. And many of them do so even while collecting taxpayer-funded per diem payments.

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Obituary
12:16 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Sen. Mike Carrell dies at age 69

Washington state Senator Mike Carrell of Lakewood has died from complications related to treatment for a pre-leukemia blood disorder.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said Carrell died Wednesday morning at a Seattle hospital of lung complications from his ongoing treatment of transplants from his brother and chemotherapy. Schoesler says that Carrell died in his sleep with his wife, Charlotte, nearby.

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bridge collapse
11:13 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Engineer says truck strike could bring down bridge

The Interstate 5 bridge over Washington's Skagit River collapsed Thursday night.
WSDOT

Just prior to the Interstate 5 bridge collapse Thursday night in Mount Vernon, an oversized load struck a portion of the bridge’s steel superstructure, according to eyewitness accounts. 

The I-5 bridge over the Skagit River was built in 1955. It’s a truss-style structure. All that steel above—"think of it as a 16 foot-tall beam," says bridge engineer Stanley Ryter. "And if any part of that breaks, then you lose the ability to carry the load."

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Fairchild Air Force Base
3:00 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Fairchild loses bid to house new Air Force tanker

Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base has lost out on a bid to be the first to house the Air Force's newest refueling tanker aircraft. 

While Spokane and Washington state leaders have spent the last few years touting Fairchild Air Force Base as the leading contender to take the first new Boeing KC 46A tanker planes, the Pentagon Wednesday decided that McConnell Air Force base in Wichita, Kansas is its choice. McConnell will receive the first batch of 36 planes in 2016. 

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fictitious license program
9:01 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Inslee signs law allowing fictitious ID program to continue

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a law that will allow the state’s fictitious driver’s license program to continue, but only for undercover law enforcement activities. At the bill signing Tuesday, Inslee backed away from a previous statement that he would apply a broad definition of the term “law enforcement.

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