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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Austin Jenkins

The fate of a human-trafficking lawsuit against Backpage.com is now in the hands of the Washington Supreme Court. The justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that involves three underage victims of sex trafficking. The justices must decide if the lawsuit can proceed.

Harvey Barrison / Flickr

The top political spenders in Washington this election year include environmentalists, unions, trial lawyers and business interests.

But there’s a group of influential players who don’t necessarily show up in the campaign finance reports: lobbyists. They often work behind the scenes to guide campaign contributions on behalf the interests they work for. It’s another way that lobbyists exert their influence over the political process.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

We’re just about two weeks away from the 2014 election. It’s not a presidential election year, but there are several big issues on the ballot that have attracted big money to try to get your vote. Those issues include gun sales, class size and control of the state Senate.

Here’s a quick look at what’s on your ballot, what’s at stake and what it’s costing.

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has contributed a significant amount of cash to an environmental political action committee in Washington.

Wikimedia

A new luxury resort has opened on a Tahitian island once owned by Marlon Brando and it could soon start to pay a dividend to Washington state’s retired public employees.

That’s because the Washington State Investment Board is a majority owner of the company that owns the resort.

AP Photo/Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa means Washington state investment officers won’t be traveling to that region anytime soon.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

Starting in January, Washington lawmakers will be barred from accepting more than 12-lobbyist-paid meals per year. The state’s Legislative Ethics Board adopted that limit today after months of public hearings and deliberation.

The issue of free meals first came to light in May of last year when we, in partnership with the Associated Press, reported on the practice of lawmakers letting lobbyists pick up the tab.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A ballot measure to expand background checks for gun sales in Washington has lost some support, but still enjoys a healthy lead, according to the latest Elway Poll released Monday.

Meanwhile, a competing gun rights measure appears to be in trouble.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Election 2014 is less than a month away. 

Ballots will soon be arriving in mailboxes in Washington and Oregon where the election is all vote-by-mail. Idaho voters still go to the polls, but about a quarter of Gem State ballots are cast absentee.

Austin Jenkins

This summer’s Carlton Complex wildfire was the largest in Washington history. Scores of firefighters battled the inferno in north-central Washington. Among them were prison inmates assigned to the Department of the Natural Resources. Those inmate crews were honored Thursday at a ceremony at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

Political Action Committees in Washington have spent more than $14 million so far this year. The top spenders are teachers, trial lawyers, SEIU and a business PAC called Enterprise Washington. But there are also dozens of smaller PACs — PACs in a box — that have been set up for just this election year.

You’ve heard of a jack in the box. Single-year political action committees are sort of like that. They just pop up. And then when the election is over, they disappear again.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The state of Washington is going back to federal court over cleanup at Hanford, the nation’s largest nuclear waste site. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the latest court action Friday in an exclusive public radio interview.

The decision to return to court follows months of negotiations that failed to produce a new Hanford cleanup agreement. Inslee says the time has come once again to get the courts involved.

Colin Fogarty

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national Republican group with a focus on “down ballot” races, is pumping money into Washington state.

So far this year, the committee has invested more than $300,000 in the state.

M Glasgow / Flickr

The National Rifle Association says it’s “very committed” to defeating a background check measure on Washington’s November ballot.

But the gun rights group says it has no plans to compete financially with the campaign in favor of Initiative 594.

Austin Jenkins

This November, Washington voters will decide whether to require background checks for person-to-person gun sales.

Initiative 594 would close what gun control advocates used to call the “gun show loophole.” But these days, much of the unregulated gun trade is happening online.

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