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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Washington State Legislature
9:46 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Washington Democrats may find path to avoid sales tax measure

If Washington's new revenue forecast is positive, the state may avoid the governor's proposal to ask voters to approve a half-penny sales tax hike. Photo by Austin Jenkins

Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 5:31 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democrats in the Washington legislature are suddenly hopeful they can rebalance the state budget without asking voters to approve a tax hike. Their optimism comes even before they see the latest revenue forecast out Thursday.

For majority Democrats the budget stars could be aligning. A new caseload forecast shows demand for state services is down. That means the current $900 million budget hole drops to less than $600 million. Plus, House Republicans have reversed their position and now support ending a tax break for out of state banks.

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Washington State Legislature
5:40 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

New teacher evaluation system passes senate in Washington

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 5:26 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington state senate has approved a new four-tier teacher evaluation system. The bill that passed Tuesday also creates a mechanism for firing under-performing teachers who don't improve.

School kids are graded A through F. But not teachers in Washington. For the most part they're still evaluated on a pass-fail system. But that's changing.

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Election 2012
6:57 am
Tue February 14, 2012

Santorum speaks out on same-sex marriage in Washington

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaking at a news conference at the Washington Capitol. Photo by Austin Jenkins

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 5:06 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. - On a campaign swing through Washington, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said opponents of same-sex marriage should - in his words - "continue the fight."

"Fight for what they believe is the best, optimal situation for children to be raised in society and the optimal situation that government should support in terms of men and women coming together in marriage," Santorum said.

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Politics
12:01 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Charter schools backers still want vote in Wash. Legislature

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 3:16 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Forty one states allow charter schools. But not Washington. Opponents in the legislature recently killed a bipartisan proposal to allow a limited number of under-performing schools to convert. But supporters of the idea haven't given up.

For the legislature it was high drama. A stand-off in the Senate Education Committee. A coalition of five Republicans and two Democrats had the votes to advance the charter school bill.

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Washington State Legislature
9:22 am
Fri February 10, 2012

With gay marriage passed in Washington, it's back to budget and taxes

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 5:24 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Now that gay marriage has passed, it's back to the budget and taxes for Washington lawmakers. The 60-day session is more than halfway over. Next week will bring the February revenue forecast. Then majority Democrats plan to roll out a budget and possible tax hikes.

Gay marriage has overshadowed just about everything else in the Washington legislature. Legislative offices were deluged with calls and emails. The floor votes emotional and historic.

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Politics
11:34 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Both Sides Of Gay Marriage Debate React To Wash. House Vote

Photo by Chantal Andrea.

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 5:23 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage supporters are thrilled. Opponents are gearing up for a ballot fight. That's the dynamic after the Washington House voted Wednesday to send a same-sex marriage bill to the governor.

Up in the marble nosebleeds, proponents of gay marriage watched the debate quietly. But when the vote was tallied the celebration went on for more than a minute.

Susan Fairo cheered with her partner of 17 years. "I'm relieved, I'm delighted," she said. "It felt like a historic moment. So, we're a step farther."

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Gay rights
1:37 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

National org. prepares for gay marriage repeal effort in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage isn’t the law in Washington yet, but national opponents are already preparing for a repeal campaign.

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Washington State Legislature
9:36 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Legislature acts on capping out-of-pocket medical expenses

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Out-of-pocket medical expenses are crushing some Washington families – even though they have health insurance. A key legislative committee voted Thursday to place an overall cap on how much a family would have to pay each year.

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Gay rights
9:25 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Gay couples celebrate Washington marriage vote; GOP struggles with vote

Richard Cannon and Richard Bullock have been together nearly 25 years and watched the gay marriage vote from the Senate gallery.
Austin Jenkins KPLU

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The battle to allow gay marriage in Washington has cleared a major hurdle. The Washington state Senate voted Wednesday night to approve same-sex marriage. The vote was 28 to 21. Four Republicans voting with the majority.

Gay marriage supporters packed the senate galleries hours before debate got underway. Among them Richard Cannon and Richard Bullock, together nearly 25 years. Bullock said their children from previous marriages are now grown and married.

“We have grandchildren now and it’s time for our wedding. We want the grandkids there,” Bullock said.

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Law
10:26 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Prosecutors won’t support bail reform package

Lawmakers are scheduled to take testimony Wednesday on a proposal to overhaul the state’s bail system. But now two key constituencies have yanked their support.

County prosecutors and an organization representing frontline police officers say they will oppose the measure because it doesn’t require defendants put down a minimum amount before bailing out of jail.

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Economy
9:20 am
Tue January 24, 2012

Laid-off, then hired back by the state of Washington

Keri-Anne Jetzer lost her job as a state researcher, but then was hired back in a different position.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The number of people who are out of work in Washington is falling. It’s a sign the economy is recovering – albeit slowly. But it’s only been in the last two months that the government sector has started hiring again.

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Gay rights
3:19 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Gay marriage opponents rally at Washington statehouse

Opponents of gay marriage rally at the Washington Statehouse.
Austin Jenkins Northwest News Network

Gay marriage opponents gathered at Washington statehouse on Monday to oppose legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

Participants at this “Stand up for Marriage” rally also waved flags and held signs that read: “One man, one woman – for life.”

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Washington State Legislature
4:26 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Gay marriage one vote shy in Washington State Senate

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Supporters and opponents of gay marriage plan to descend on Washington’s capitol on Monday when House and Senate committees are scheduled to take public testimony on legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

It now appears sponsors in the state Senate are just one vote shy of passage.

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Washington government
4:39 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Washington revenue forecaster resigns; takes private sector job

Economic Forecaster Arun Raha, left, offers up his customary deadpan as he announces his resignation to take a job in the private sector.
Azusa Uchikura

OLYMPIA, Wash. – His job was to predict Washington revenues through the worst economic storm since the Great Depression. Now Washington’s chief economic forecaster is resigning to take a job in the private sector.

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Washington state legislature
9:06 am
Sun January 8, 2012

Budget crisis, gay marriage shake up next Wash. Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A one billion dollar budget shortfall, taxes and gay marriage are all on the agenda as the Washington legislature convenes Monday. But the timeframe is short – just 60 days – and already the Governor’s push for gay marriage is setting off partisan tension.

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