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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Politics
9:50 am
Sat January 26, 2013

Reform vs. funding: battle shaping up in Washington legislature

Austin Jenkins

Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 12:32 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – One of the key battles shaping up in Olympia this year is over education reform. The Senate’s new majority coalition is proposing a series of measures aimed at getting better results in the classroom. Among the ideas: a state takeover of failing schools. Meanwhile, a key Senate Democrat says the focus should be on school funding – and proposes a new capital gains tax.

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Marijuana Legalization
10:54 am
Fri January 25, 2013

Governor Inslee: Pot legalization must inspire 'confidence'

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 4:42 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the eyes of the nation will be on the state as it creates a legal marijuana market over the next year. The new governor said Thursday that along with legalization comes the expectation that illegal pot production and sales will mostly end.

Inslee doesn’t expect a clear answer from the Obama administration anytime soon on how the federal government will respond to Washington’s new marijuana law. He met earlier this week with US Attorney General Eric Holder.

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Politics
10:58 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Washington pot forum draws standing room crowd

Justin Pitts runs a cannabis testing lab in Spokane. He says a felony conviction for pot should not prevent someone from becoming a licensed grower or seller in Washington.

OLYMPIA, Wash. –The first public forum on how to implement Washington’s new marijuana law drew a capacity crowd Tuesday night in Olympia. The state’s Liquor Control Board is seeking input as it writes the rules for enacting Initiative 502 – Washington’s new pot legalization law.

They arrived early and in droves – the smell of marijuana clung in the air. First in line to get a seat for the forum, Leslie Tikka of Olympia. She mainly came to see a bit of history in the making.

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Politics
12:49 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Social issues in Inslee's inaugural speech rub Republicans wrong way

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 5:40 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s new governor touched a nerve with some Republicans in his inaugural address. On the topic of abortion Democrat Jay Inslee called on the legislature to pass the so-called Reproductive Parity Act. It would require health insurers that cover maternity services to also pay for abortions.

Inslee said, "Washington women need the freedom and privacy” to make their own health care decisions.

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Politics
12:23 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Embattled Washington State Senator defends behavior

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Washington state senator with a long record of reprimands for her treatment of staff is taking the offensive. Republican Pam Roach Thursday fired back at her accusers – they include some fellow Republicans. The move comes just as fresh allegations of staff mistreatment emerge. And a narrow majority coalition takes power in the Washington senate.

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2013 legislative session
10:50 am
Tue January 15, 2013

New political dynamics, budget challenges face state lawmakers

Washington legislative leaders at a pre-session forum for reporters and editors.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington lawmakers convene for the start of the 2013 session. They face a $2B budget problem, an unusual political dynamic in the state senate and hot button issues like gun control.

It’s like Downton Abbey. A new season of the legislature begins with plenty of intrigue and tensions between powerful personalities. There are familiar faces and new ones. Chief among them Governor-elect Jay Inslee.

Jay Inslee: “We’ve got fiscal challenges, we have some creative and different situations in the state senate, we have ideas that are contentious.”

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State Budget
11:24 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Budget fallout: Juvenile re-arrest rates spike after parole cut

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 5:39 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – We’re starting to see real world fallout from some of the state budget cuts made in last few years. One of the clearest examples in Washington is juvenile parole. It turns out that the chief suspect in a recent high profile bar shooting had committed a previous murder – but did not qualify for intensive parole supervision because of cutbacks. One study finds juveniles who don’t receive parole are far more likely to be re-arrested within nine months of their release.

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Other News
4:48 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Washington correctional officers to protest following assaults

Washington Department of Corrections

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 5:24 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s been nearly two years since Washington corrections officer Jayme Biendl was murdered on the job. But the union that represents prison guards says safety is still a major concern. The Teamsters plan to rally Thursday at the Capitol to demand safer work conditions. They also want the right to call in an arbitrator to resolve bargaining disputes.

Union representative Michelle Woodrow says since August seven officers have been assaulted at three different Washington prisons.

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Politics
11:04 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Latest Eyman initiative would extend Washington signature-gathering period

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 4:11 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington initiative promoter Tim Eyman says he wants to make it easier to put an initiative on the ballot. Eyman submitted nearly 350,000 signatures Thursday for his latest ballot measure. But critics are suspicious.

Eyman’s so-called "Protect the Initiative Act" would give signature-gatherers new protections from harassment. It would also stretch the time initiative backers have to gather signatures in Washington from six months to one year. By comparison Oregon allows up to two years.

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NPR Story
12:09 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Gregoire's Legacy: Children's Health, Navigating Recession, Gay Marriage

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 3:42 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire will leave office January 16th. During her eight years as governor, the Democrat often referred to herself as a “recovering lawyer.” Polls showed the former attorney general struggled to connect with voters. She could come off as a fierce technocrat. But her two-terms in office were marked by challenges that affected her on a deeply personal level.

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NPR Story
12:05 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Washington unemployment rates drops below 8 percent

Andreas Klinke Johannsen Flickr

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:51 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s jobless rate has dropped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The November jobs numbers out Wednesday peg Washington’s unemployment rate at 7.8 percent. That’s down from 8.2 percent in October – the largest one month drop since 1977.

But chief labor economist Joe Elling cautions the state is still far from what he would consider full employment.

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Afghan Civilian Killing
2:32 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Army will seek death penalty against Washington soldier

High Desert Warrior

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 4:01 pm

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

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Politics
10:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Governor Gregoire's parting budget emphasizes taxes

Gov. Chris Gregoire unveils her final budget before leaving office

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Taxes are a key part of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire’s final budget before leaving office . The outgoing Democrat released her proposed two-year spending plan Tuesday as required by law. Gregoire says she wrote her budget with incoming Governor Jay Inslee in mind. But he hasn’t exactly embraced it.

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Marijuana
3:02 pm
Sun December 16, 2012

Obama's pot comments leave more questions than answers

AP

OLYMPIA, Wash. – President Obama’s first comments about marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado leave more questions than answers. The President tells ABC news that federal agents have – quote – “bigger fish to fry” than recreational pot users.

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Politics
7:21 am
Mon December 10, 2012

One party control of Wash. senate could change this week

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington is currently a Democratic one party rule state. But that could change this week. A possible challenge to the Democrats' tenuous control of the Washington state senate could emerge. Senate Republicans have called a news conference Monday morning at the Capitol.

A bipartisan group of senators is expected make an announcement regarding the leadership of the state’s upper chamber. All it would take is two Democratic senators to join with Republicans to create a philosophical majority.

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