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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Marijuana legalization
2:13 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Pot consultant: Size of joint matters in gauging pot usage

Marijuana starts stand on a shelf during the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market, for sales of medical marijuana products, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Predicting marijuana usage rates in Washington might come down to a test Cheech and Chong would appreciate: the size of the joint. That’s according to one of the state’s new pot legalization consultants.  

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State Legislature
12:49 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Gov. Inslee eyes tax 'loopholes' for elimination, but feasible?

Hopes for a rosier budget outlook in Washington are dimming. Expected savings in Medicaid haven’t materialized. And many state lawmakers expect this week’s quarterly revenue forecast to show a downward slide. Add to that, a Supreme Court ruling that requires more funding for schools.

In response, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce soon a list of tax “loopholes” ­— as he calls them — he wants to eliminate to fund schools. But closing tax exemptions is easier said than done.

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Law
7:52 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Washington universal gun checks measure loses pivotal supporter

Washington Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The fate of a universal background check measure in the Washington state House could be decided this week. Wednesday is a key cut-off deadline. But recently the gun control measure lost a pivotal “yes” vote.

Maureen Walsh was one of two Republicans who signed onto the measure to require background checks for all gun sales. She says she did so thinking it sounded like a reasonable response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

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Washington State Government
10:31 am
Fri March 8, 2013

Inside the world of business lobbying in Olympia

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 4:27 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the world of state legislatures, there’s a powerful breed of players who normally shun the spotlight. They prefer to work behind the scenes to influence policy outcomes. We’re talking about business lobbyists. Inside this often hidden world, you’ll meet two of the most successful corporate contract lobbyists in the Washington state capitol. And learn some of their tricks of the trade.

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Marijuana Legalization
9:17 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Pressure Mounts On Feds To Intervene In Washington, Colorado Pot Laws

Petr Brož Wikimedia

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 5:36 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. He will likely get questions about Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws. Pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to block the pot legalization measures.

The new push for federal invention comes from a United Nations-based drug agency and nine former DEA chiefs. They say Washington and Colorado's new recreational pot laws violate international treaties.

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Law
5:36 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Washington Sheriffs, Police Chiefs Say Pistol Database Is Valuable Tool

Quagmar Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Efforts to get gun rights leaders in Washington to support -- or at least not oppose -- universal background checks appear to have hit a stumbling block. At issue is a state database that tracks pistol sales. Second Amendment advocates want it shut down, but the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs say it’s a vital law enforcement tool.

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Politics
5:29 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Despite pledge to cooperate, partisan recriminations in Washington Senate

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Three months ago, 23 Republicans and two breakaway Democrats seized control of the Washington state Senate. At the time, Majority Leader Rodney Tom, one of the Democrats, pledged a new spirit of bipartisanship.

“The public out there is hungry for us to come together, to work together in a collaborative manner and that’s exactly what this coalition is trying to accomplish,” he said.

But as the halfway point of the legislative session approaches, the Washington state Senate has become a hotbed of partisan recriminations.

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Politics
5:45 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Defiance and praise as Washington High Court makes tax hikes easier

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Raising taxes in Washington just got a whole lot easier. The state Supreme Court Thursday threw out the requirement that tax increases muster a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Democrats say the ruling will allow more options as lawmakers grapple with ongoing budget woes. But Republicans vow to uphold the will of voters who have repeatedly supported a high bar for tax hikes.

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Politics
5:29 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman blasts car tab proposals in Olympia

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – He is synonymous with keeping Washington car tabs at $30. Now anti-tax initiative sponsor Tim Eyman is fired up again. He testified in Olympia Monday against a series of proposals to allow local transportation districts to impose higher vehicle fees.

Eyman says even Seattle voters have demonstrated a scorn for car tab hikes.

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Business
3:46 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Washington venture capitalist funds new anti-gun violence coalition

M Glasgow Flickr

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gun control advocates in Washington are banding together to turn up the heat on state lawmakers. In the coming days, they plan to announce the formation of a new grassroots lobbying coalition. Their first target is passage of universal background check legislation.

The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has seed money from Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer. Other founders are Seattle city councilwoman Sally Bagshaw, former council member Tina Podlodowski and Seattle writer and activist Eric Liu.

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Marijuana Regulation
11:09 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Washington 'potrepreneurs' plan to start locally, expand nationally

Jamen Shively of Diego Pellicer Fine Marijuana plans to open high-end marijuana retail stores in Washington and Coloradio and, he hopes, nationally some day.

You could say pot-related start-ups are baking it into their business plans: the expectation that in the not too distant future marijuana will be legal and accepted in all fifty states. Take Jamen Shively, founder of Diego Pellicer fine marijuana.

Jamen Shively: “So we are in beautiful downtown Seattle and we are standing outside of the Brooks Brothers retailer.”

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Marijuana Regulation
10:30 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Washington marijuana legalization draws Yale MBAs with big ideas

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 3:39 pm

SEATTLE, Wash. – As Washington moves to legalize marijuana, pot entrepreneurs are lobbying in public forums and behind the scenes. These business interests want to shape the new marijuana marketplace. Among them, a Seattle-based private equity firm called Privateer Holdings. The company has hired a top Olympia lobbyist and is making the case for large marijuana grows to state regulators.

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Law
3:54 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Washington Gas Tax Increase Proposal Faces Bumpy Road

Kristen Steele

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by ten cents faces a bumpy road in Olympia. House Democrats rolled out the idea Wednesday as part of a $10 billion transportation funding package, but it faced immediate opposition.

The plan comes from House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn. It would increase Washington’s gas tax two-cents per gallon per year for five years. House Republicans quickly pointed out that when fully implemented, the state’s fuel excise tax would be 47.5 cents per gallon – higher than any other state today.

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Law
5:58 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Washington liquor control officers want full law enforcement powers

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Liquor control officers in Washington say they need more authority to combat the black market for booze, cigarettes and, soon, marijuana. State lawmakers on Tuesday will take testimony on a proposal to give full police powers to liquor enforcement officers.

Washington has 56 officers who police the stores and restaurants that sell liquor and tobacco products. Now that private retailers can sell booze, there are nearly three times as many liquor licenses statewide and theft has become a significant problem.

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Politics
11:00 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Washington pays for more than half of births; half of those pregnancies unintended.

Carly Earles cradles her newborn son Jack. Medicaid paid for her pregnancy care and the delivery.

SHELTON, Wash. - It’s one of the most vexing problems state lawmakers face: how to curb the rising cost of healthcare. In Washington’s, there’s one specific line item in the healthcare budget that’s startling, but few at the Capitol are talking about: taxpayers now foot the bill for more than half of all births in Washington. Correspondent Austin Jenkins went to find out what that number is so high.

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