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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The state of Washington paid out nearly $50 million last fiscal year to people who were somehow harmed by the state. The numbers were released Tuesday in an annual report on tort claim payouts.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has dumped $1 million into Washington state.

The seven-figure contribution was made last week and became public Monday.

AP Photo/Washington State Dept of Transportation

Six months ago Monday, forty-three people lost their lives in the Oso landslide. So far, nearly 60 legal claims have been filed against the state of Washington stemming from the slide.

Attorney Karen Willie says a half-year later a “deep wound” remains from Oso. I spoke with her at 10:37a.m., the exact-six month anniversary.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

So far this year, business interests have contributed more than $16 million to political campaigns and committees in Washington.

But gifts from individual donors eclipse even that. That’s because a small group of wealthy people are writing large checks.

Washington state employees have not had a cost-of-living raise in six years. But that could change in the next budget cycle.

A tentative contract deal has been struck between the state and the union representing general government workers.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

California billionaire Tom Steyer is poised to help Democrats try to win back control of the Washington Senate. But first, his NextGen political action committee had to satisfy a quirk in the law.

Call it the ten-ten rule. In Washington, political committees have to jump a small hurdle before they can play in Washington’s political sandbox. The rule is the committee must receive $10 or more from at least 10 registered Washington voters. Now that NextGen has this bit of local skin in the game, climate activist Tom Steyer is free to start spending some serious on Washington races.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen has agreed to a $15,000 ethics fine. The settlement announced Friday stems from the five-term Democrat’s use of state resources to operate a nonprofit with his wife.

The ethics investigation concluded that Owen used his office and staff to help run Strategies for Youth, a nonprofit that went around to schools, performing concerts with an anti-bullying message.

Austin Jenkins

In an unprecedented move, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state in contempt of court in the McCleary school funding case. However, the justices will wait to impose sanctions until after the 2015 legislative session to give the legislature time to "purge the contempt."

Washington regulators are continuing their crackdown on the party bus industry. The state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) announced Wednesday it’s shutting down a company that stranded a group of prom-goers.

We first broke the story of the state’s get-tough approach to party buses back in April. The UTC says safety is its top concern.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The getaway driver in the murders of four Lakewood, Washington police officers is seeking a new trial. The case has made it to the Washington Supreme Court and on Tuesday, the justices heard arguments.

Darcus Allen, also known as Dorcus Allen, was convicted and sentenced to 420 years in prison as an accomplice to Maurice Clemmons, the Arkansas-parolee who murdered the four officers in a coffee shop in 2009. Clemmons was later shot and killed by a Seattle police officer. Prosecutors went after Allen who drove the getaway truck.

Taber Andrew Bain
Flickr

The state of Washington now has until the end of the year to stop “boarding” mental health patients in non-psychiatric hospital beds. The Supreme Court on Friday granted a 120-day stay in a ruling that declared the practice of boarding illegal. 

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says the Legislature has not “acted appropriately” in the face of the McCleary decision on school funding. But he cautioned the state Supreme Court Thursday not to impose sanctions that would penalize other areas of state government.

Austin Jenkins

The Washington Supreme Court has heard the arguments, and it must now decide whether to hold the state in contempt for failing to submit a complete plan to fully fund schools.

The nine justices heard oral arguments Wednesday in a historic hearing that could result in sanctions against the state Legislature.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In the first month of legal recreational marijuana sales in Washington, two welfare clients withdrew cash at pot stores using their electronic benefits transfer cards in violation of state law, according to the Office of Fraud and Accountability within the Department of Social and Health Services.

Austin Jenkins

This November’s election will decide who controls the Washington state Senate. Democrats are desperate to win back the majority while a mostly-Republican coalition that took power last year is determined to hold on.

In the meantime, big-money interests on both sides are trying to influence the outcome. They’re pouring unlimited contributions into political action committees controlled by the legislative caucuses.

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