Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

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School funding, a roads-and-transit package and medical marijuana are among the hot topics as the Washington legislature convenes Monday. Lawmakers plan to meet for 105 days.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is defending his call for higher taxes in 2015. The Democrat reacted Thursday to criticism from Republican lawmakers.

Washington Republicans said higher taxes should be a last resort and accused Inslee of making taxes his default position.

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Marijuana will be among the top agenda items when the Washington legislature convenes Monday.

Specifically, lawmakers will consider what to do about the state’s unregulated medical marijuana industry.

Elway Research

 

Washington voters would prefer no new taxes and no deep cuts to state services. But if that’s not possible, they’re open to some new taxes.

That’s the finding of a new non-partisan poll from Stuart Elway released Tuesday.

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The Washington legislature convenes next Monday for a 105-day session. Transportation funding is one of the top agenda items.

Lawmakers failed to move a roads and transit package last year and pressure continues to build for the legislature to act. But there are also sharp partisan differences.

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Voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to find illegal marijuana grows on public lands.

In fact, Washington authorities report an uptick in plant seizures and arrests this year.

M Glasgow / Flickr

 

Washington’s new voter-approved background check law appears to have prevented the sale of a rifle to a man with a warrant out for his arrest.

It could be the first time the new law was put to the test.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

"It is time to reinvest in Washington," Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday. 

Washington Consolidated Technology Services

 

The state of Washington has good cyber security standards, but state agencies don’t always adhere to those standards, according to the findings of a performance audit released Monday.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Several hundred gun rights activists rallied at Washington’s capitol Saturday to protest the new voter-approved law that requires background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. Most participants in the "I Will Not Comply" rally were openly carrying handguns or rifles or both.

Austin Jenkins

 

The lights are back on for many of those who lost power during the windstorm that walloped western Oregon and Washington Thursday night. But repair crews are still hard at work across the region.

The largest number of outages were in Puget Sound Energy territory. But the utility said the number of customers still without electricity is less than half what it was at the peak overnight.

In Olympia’s South Capitol neighborhood, there was a harrowing moment when a very large, sprawling tree fell across power lines and onto a car, knocking out the power in the residential neighborhood.

Washington Consolidated Technology Services

 

A foil-wrapped secret room is a plausible use for unused portions of Washington’s new data center. That’s according to a national expert on what Time Magazine has dubbed “spy-proof rooms.”

Brianhe / Wikimedia Commons

 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is likely to propose a revenue package that exceeds $1 billion when he unveils his proposed two-year budget next week, according to the governor’s budget director who briefed reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.

Washington Consolidated Technology Services

 

The search is widening for tenants to fill Washington’s overbuilt data center. Efforts to lease the 26,000 square feet of highly-secure warehouse space to the private sector have so far been unsuccessful.

Austin Jenkins

The agency that oversees child welfare in Washington wants to hire nearly 100 more child protection workers.

But the budget request comes after years of lawsuits that cost the state more than $150 million. Now the question is whether Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services has taken adequate steps to learn from child welfare cases that went awry.

Austin Jenkins

 

Low-wage workers picketed and rallied across the country Thursday in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage.

On the steps of the Washington state Capitol, a group of about 50 people gathered, mostly minimum wage earners who carried signs saying "Strike poverty." They’re calling for a $15 per hour base wage in Washington state.

Austin Jenkins

 

Washington’s new background check law for person-to-person gun sales and transfers takes effect Thursday.

The law puts federally-licensed gun dealers in the role of conducting the checks. But Don Teague, the owner of Private Sector Arms, a gun store in Thurston County, said it’s not a role he’s comfortable with.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

 

Two Washington prison inmates have committed suicide in recent weeks at the state’s main intake facility in Shelton.

The first was in October. The most recent was just before Thanksgiving.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

 

Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has capped the number of free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Now the board will consider whether lawmakers must report those meals. A meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Austin Jenkins

 

The election is over, but not the political fundraising. Washington state lawmakers are racing the clock to replenish their coffers before the freeze.

The freeze that hits on Dec. 13 isn't the plummeting temperatures kind; it's a freeze on campaign fundraising.

Austin Jenkins

In Washington, D.C., there’s a waiting period before members of Congress and their staffers can work as lobbyists.

And unlike Oregon and 31 other states, Washington state does not require a waiting or “cooling off” period to slow the revolving door. 

This January, Washington State University plans to ask lawmakers for permission to open a medical school in Spokane.

The question is whether the University of Washington will oppose that effort. It currently runs the state’s only school for doctor of medicine degrees.

Justin Henry / Flickr

 

To raise taxes, or not raises taxes? That is the question. Washington Democrats have been hinting at yes. Republicans like Senate budget chair Andy Hill say it’s a last resort.

Hill started the toothpaste analogy.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

 The Washington State Patrol has ticketed the driver of an oversize load that collapsed the Skagit River Bridge in May of 2013. 

The State Patrol announced the $550 fine Monday and released its final report, which concludes the oversize load was 2 inches over legal height.

Austin Jenkins

A crowd gathered at the state capitol today to celebrate Washington state’s 125th birthday. The celebration featured a historic reenactment, a time-capsule ceremony and, of course, cake.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Voter turnout in Washington state could be a 36-year low. Not since 1978 has such a small percentage of registered voters participated in a Washington election. 

The year 1978 was when Washington voters approved a ban on mandatory busing. That year, just 52percent of registered voters cast a ballot. Turnout this year in on tract to beat that, at 54 percent — 8 points lower than Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman projected back in September.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington voters are narrowly passing a class-size measure that comes with a multi-billion dollar price tag.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A Lynnwood, Washington man held prisoner for two years in North Korean is back home. Kenneth Bae landed Saturday night at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He was accompanied by Matthew Todd Miller, another freed American prisoner.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Washington Democrats appear to have failed in their bid to retake control of the state Senate. Early election returns Tuesday night showed Republicans holding onto their majority. Republicans were also poised to pick up seats in the Democratically-controlled Washington House. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington voters have overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to expand background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. Initiative 594 passed with 60 percent of the vote.

At the I-594 victory party in Seattle, campaign manager Zach Silk fired up the crowd.

“Washington state has voted yes on 594 and closed the background check loophole,” Silk said.

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