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.

Ways to Connect

Judge Ronald Leighton took federal prosecutors to task this week, saying they may have overreached when they seized nearly $1 million from indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley in September.

Courtesy WSP

The Washington State Patrol is reminding drivers to move over -- or at least slow down -- when approaching an emergency vehicle that’s stopped with its lights flashing. The Patrol will begin a three-day crackdown Tuesday on drivers who don’t give troopers some space.

About 30 times per year, a Washington State Patrol trooper has someone pulled over or is helping a motorist and another driver smashes into them.

Two years ago, Washington lawmakers created a registry for individuals convicted of a gun-related felony. The law was sold as a way to improve police officer safety by creating a database just for them.

The Washington State Patrol is recruiting. But in this case it’s not for troopers. It’s for military veterans who applied to be troopers and weren’t hired.

Wealthy donors helped get Initiative 1366 on the ballot. Now Washington voters will decide whether to approve Tim Eyman’s latest effort to require a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a vote of the people for tax hikes.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The state of Washington has issued workplace safety fines in a bridge demolition accident that killed a couple and their infant son. The fines announced Monday target four construction contractors.

On April 14, workers were building a pedestrian walkway on a highway overpass in Bonney Lake southeast of Tacoma. Suddenly a concrete barrier fell onto the road below crushing a vehicle passing underneath. Killed were Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their eight-month-old son Hudson.

The latest Elway Poll released Monday showed Initiative 1366, a tax-limiting measure on Washington’s November ballot, is tied. Sixteen percent of Washington voters said they’re still not sure how they’ll vote.

Washington Republicans have been talking about impeaching indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley. But now one of Kelley’s fellow Democrats says it’s time to proceed.

Note: This story is an update to a story first reported in 2012 in collaboration with the Seattle Times.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines were given “other than honorable” discharges from the military. Now, one soldier from Salem, Oregon, has learned his discharge will be upgraded.

Money is pouring into a highly competitive special election to fill an open seat in the Washington state House. But tracing where that money comes from is no easy task.

The Washington State Patrol has a warning for drivers: it’s now illegal to have an open container of marijuana in the passenger compartments of vehicles.

This is an off election year, but there is one hot legislative race that has implications for future control of the Washington state House.

The license application window opens Monday for medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state that want to continue to operate.

The race is on to replace indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. Republican state Senator Mark Miloscia announced Thursday he will campaign for the seat in 2016.

Poor and minority students in Washington state are more likely to be labeled truants. That’s a according to the state’s 2015 Truancy Report out Wednesday.

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen hasn’t announced if he intends to seek a sixth-term next year. But he already faces challenges from two fellow Democrats who are betting he won’t run.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Mentally disabled sex offenders housed on McNeil Island are not getting the treatment they deserve. And, in some cases, they are being held in isolation. Those allegations are contained in a lawsuit plaintiffs say they will file today in federal court.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Citing a lack of confidence, state regulators took emergency action Monday to suspend Ride the Ducks tours in Seattle. The move follows last week’s deadly crash involving one of the company’s amphibious vehicles.

Austin Jenkins

Brian Phillips spent 71 days in solitary confinement this summer. He was locked up in the Thurston County Jail after he went off his psychiatric medication and had several run-ins with police. Like many of inmates in his situation, Phillips had to wait weeks for a mental health evaluation. While he waited, the isolation took a toll.

Ted S. Warren / AP

  The lawyer for indicted Washington state auditor Troy Kelley has more than 80,000 pages of transcripts, witness statements and documents to wade through. It’s a sign of the complexity of the money laundering and tax evasion case against the first-term Democrat.

Tradnor at the English Language Wikipedia

  The Washington State Patrol says security at the governor’s mansion in Olympia has been improved in the wake of two breaches. Trespassers made it past the perimeter fence in 2013 and again earlier this year.

Some of the security upgrades are obvious: a higher, more robust gate at the east entrance to the governor’s mansion. This is the gate that was easily scaled by a trespasser in August of 2013. That event was caught on video. According to the State Patrol a new alarm has also been installed on that gate.

A security breach at the Washington governor’s mansion on August 7, 2013 was more serious than first reported. Records obtained from the Washington State Patrol reveal the trespasser broke a window before he was arrested at gunpoint.

The perimeter surrounding Washington’s governor’s mansion has been breached twice by trespassers since 2013. The incidents were not publicized at the time.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley has pleaded not guilty -- again. The indicted Democrat was arraigned Friday morning in federal court in Tacoma on a revised 17-count indictment.

The FBI has seized a $900,000 legal retainer fee paid by indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. They said the money came from alleged ill-gotten gains related to Kelley’s former real estate services business.

A three-year-old Washington state law that allows whistleblowers to bring Medicaid fraud lawsuits is working. That’s according to a review by legislative auditors that urges lawmakers to renew the law before it expires next year.

Vance for Senate Campaign

Longtime Washington U.S. Senator Patty Murray has drawn a Republican challenger. Former GOP Chair Chris Vance says he plans to focus on issues like the national debt. Vance formally announced his 2016 run Tuesday.

Vance launched his campaign with a video announcement and a promise to be a different kind of candidate.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley faces additional charges of money laundering and tax evasion. The U.S. Attorney’s office announced the new charges Thursday afternoon.

Rachel La Corte / AP

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled a lawsuit against Backpage.com can move forward. The lawsuit alleges Backpage was complicit in the sex trafficking of minors.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The Olympia police officer who shot two African-American brothers during a confrontation in May will not be criminally charged.

That was the announcement Wednesday afternoon from Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim. He is charging the two brothers with assault on the officer.

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