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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Gas Tax Package
5:16 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Washington Senate Majority Unveils New Gas Tax Package, Votes Lacking

mathteacherguy Flickr

The members of the mostly-Republican majority in the Washington Senate say they want to jumpstart negotiations on a gas tax package to fund roads and transit in Washington state.

They unveiled a revised funding proposal Thursday, but also acknowledged they don’t have the votes to pass it.

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Death Penalty
10:40 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Gov. Suspends Death Penalty In Wash. State

Gov. Jay Inslee announces Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, that he is suspending the use of the death penalty in Washington state during a news conference in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte AP Photo

No one will be executed in the state of Washington as long as Gov. Jay Inslee is in office, the governor said Tuesday.

"Equal justice under the law is the primary responsibility of our state. And in death penalty cases, I am not convinced equal justice is being served," Inslee said.

The governor, who previously supported the death penalty, said he decided to issue the moratorium after a months-long review of strong arguments on both sides of the issue, as well as a visit to the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla where nine inmates are currently on death row. But Inslee said his decision wasn’t based on just those nine people.

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Dream Act
11:32 am
Mon February 10, 2014

State Lawmakers Underfund Promise Of ‘Real Hope’ And ‘Dreams’

Dulce Siguenza is a 19-year old student at South Seattle Community College who had to drop out of the University of Washington because it was too expensive.
Austin Jenkins

The state of Washington could soon become the fourth in the nation after California, Texas and New Mexico to allow the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for state-funded college financial aid.

The idea has now passed both the Washington House and Senate. But allowing undocumented students to compete for these limited dollars is still a thorny issue for some, especially since the program is already seriously underfunded.

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Faith Healing
1:57 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Faith Healing Exemption Gets Scrutiny In Wash. Legislature

<< Jonny Boy >> Flickr

Christian Scientists who treat their sick children with faith healing instead of medical care have special protection under Washington law. But that could soon change.

Lawmakers are considering whether to repeal the Christian Science exemption following the death of a teenager in north-central Washington.

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Troublesome Static
5:01 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Dead Air, Garbled Transmissions Trouble Washington State Troopers

This is one of the Washington State Patrol’s new portable radios by Motorola.

Dead air, garbled transmissions and poor reception are just some of the problems with the Washington State Patrol’s new state-of-the art radio system. The $40 million conversion to digital technology is behind schedule, and having technical problems.

For most of us, our smartphones have become our figurative lifelines. For state troopers, their literal lifeline is still the two-way radio. When the radio doesn’t work that’s a problem. We first reported on doubts about this project in March of 2012.

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Business
12:56 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Battered Coastal Paper Mill Now Closed For Good, Faces Demolition

Harbor Paper in Hoquiam reopened in October of 2012 only to close a few months later.
Austin Jenkins

 

A paper mill in Hoquiam has had its share of ups and downs over the past seven years.

It was a major employer and once even referred to as the “greenest” paper mill in the country. It was also a symbol for Grays Harbor County’s effort to reinvent itself after the timber market collapsed.

But now the mill is closed for good.

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Death Penalty
5:19 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Wash. To Change Execution Rules, Allow More Witness Access

The execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary is shown as viewed from the witness gallery, in this Nov. 20, 2008, file photo, in Walla Walla, Wash.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The next time a death row inmate is executed by lethal injection in Washington, witnesses will see more of the process. Washington’s secretary of corrections confirmed Wednesday that a closed-circuit camera will capture the moment the needle goes in.

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Gun Initiatives
3:13 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Gabby Giffords Urges Lawmakers To ‘Fight, Fight, Fight’ For Background Checks

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords pumps her fist as she testifies before a Washington state House panel Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, testified in support of Initiative 594 in Olympia on Tuesday. The initiative would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers, even those between individuals.

“Now is the time to come together, be responsible, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting; fight, fight, fight” Giffords said.

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Education
10:28 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Gov. Inslee Wants To Put $200 Million More Into Education For Supplies, Teacher COLAs

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legisture in the House chambers Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee is making another push for lawmakers to close tax exemptions to fund education. The Democrat made his pitch Tuesday, but there’s no indication the mostly Republican majority in the Washington Senate can be persuaded.

The money would pay for the reforms the Legislature has already approved, including a 1.3 percent salary increase for teachers and staff. The governor said the money will include sending $130 million to K-12 public schools to pay for textbooks, computers and curriculum updates.

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Social Services
9:48 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Washington Considers Private Investment Bonds To Address Social Problems

File image
AP Photo

Someday in the not-too-distant future, social service programs here in the Northwest could get funding from Wall Street.

The idea is gaining traction across the nation. Goldman Sachs already funds preschool slots in Utah and a youth intervention program in New York.

A proposal to pilot “pay-for-success” bonds in Washington got a hearing Monday before a legislative committee.

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Gun Marketplace
5:01 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Online Gun Exchange Launches On Eve Of Gun Measure Hearings

File image
AP Photo

Starting today, Washington gun owners will have a new place to sell their firearm online at the Washington Gun Exchange.

The arrival of this online marketplace comes as Washington lawmakers prepare to hold contentious hearings on dueling gun measures.

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Lobbyists & Legislators
3:31 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

State Senators Want Ethics Boards — Not Lawmakers — To Define ‘Infrequent’ Meals

mathteacherguy Flickr

Washington’s ethics boards should define how often lawmakers can dine out at lobbyist expense, according to nearly a dozen state senators who’ve signed onto a proposal that would direct legislative and executive ethics panels to clarify the rules for lobbyist-paid meals.

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Minimum Wage
4:04 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

House Dems Propose $12 Minimum Wage

mSeattle Flickr

Washington’s minimum wage would rise to $12 an hour by 2017 under a proposal from Democrats in the state House. The measure introduced Thursday would phase-in the $2.68 increase over three years.

Freshman Democrat Jessyn Farrell of Seattle is the prime sponsor.

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Politics
5:00 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Wealthy Donors Fund Never-Ending ‘Progressive’ Campaign In Washington State

Staff at Fuse Washington meet to update their communications and community organizing efforts.

You’ve heard of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and other issue advocacy groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. They are transforming American politics.

These political nonprofits also exist at the state level. But much of this activity is coming from the left, not the right. And instead of TV ad campaigns, the work is largely happening online and on the ground.

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State Of The State
12:51 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Gov. Inslee Calls For Minimum Wage Hike, More Education Funding, Teacher COLAs

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legisture in the House chambers Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is calling for a hike in the minimum wage as well as cost-of-living increases for teachers. Those were two of the Democrat’s key policy proposals in his State of the State speech Tuesday.

But Republicans lawmakers quickly shot down the ideas.

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