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
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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Marijuana Regulation
2:32 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

'Grey' Market Concerns Grow As Washington Legalizes Pot

Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 5:32 pm

As Washington moves to legalize marijuana, there are fresh concerns that a parallel market for pot will continue to flourish. It’s not quite a black market. Let’s call it a “grey” market – for medical marijuana. The question now: how will highly taxed and regulated pot compete with largely unregulated medical marijuana?

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Gun Control
7:27 am
Thu January 31, 2013

State lawmakers eye universal background checks for gun sales

Robert Nelson Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 5:33 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democratic lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon are working on measures to require background checks for all gun sales. A universal check proposal was introduced Wednesday in the Washington House. A similar bill is expected in the Oregon Senate soon.

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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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