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.

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Embattled Washington state Rep. Matt Manweller has resigned his leadership position with House Republicans. He’s also been stripped of a key committee role.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday rolled out his proposal for an update to the state’s two-year, $43 billion budget. Here are the top five items on the governor’s budget wish list:

A fiery top Republican in the Washington Legislature is facing renewed scrutiny over allegations he sexually harassed students as a professor at Central Washington University.

Washington state Sen. Karen Keiser said she wants to encourage disclosure of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. To that end, the Democrat introduced legislation on December 4 that would place limits on non-disclosure agreements.

The state of Washington may soon follow Oregon and California and allow a third gender option on birth certificates. The proposal would let people change their gender from male or female to the non-binary designation of “X.”

Women who signed a “Stand With Us” anti-harassment letter to Washington legislative leaders in November say they want a “safe, neutral space” to formally and informally report allegations of misconduct.

Gun rights advocates and legislative leaders are reacting to new rules on guns in the Washington state Senate. Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib announced a ban Monday on all firearms in the public viewing galleries.

This story has been updated

All firearms will be banned from the Washington state Senate public viewing galleries when the 2018 legislative session begins on January 8.

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat who serves as the president of the Senate, issued that order Monday, extending a previous order banning openly-carried guns in the Senate galleries.

Washington state Rep. Paul Graves is proposing to end the cloak of secrecy around legislative emails, calendars and other records. The move comes as media outlets, including public radio, have sued the Legislature over public records.

Marijuana may be legal in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to bust illegal marijuana operations that are not licensed by the state.

The latest numbers from the Washington State Patrol show that 89 illegal marijuana growing operations were shut down in Washington over the past year. Some were indoor grows, most were outdoor.

The Washington State Supreme Court has decided that it believes in second chances and rehabilitation in a case involving a former drug addict who transformed into a promising future attorney.

The high court ordered that Tarra Simmons of Bremerton, an honors law school graduate with a criminal past, can take the bar exam to become a licensed lawyer.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” Simmons said shortly after receiving news of the order. “I went to my knees crying because it’s been such a long and painful journey. “

In response to recent reports about sexual harassment at the Washington state Capitol, a state Senate committee voted Tuesday night to require all senators and staff to take annual sexual harassment training.

The vote by the Senate’s Facilities and Operations Committee was unanimous.

Washington state lawmakers will likely have to come up with an extra $1 billion for schools when they convene in January for the 2018 session.

The Washington Supreme Court issued a unanimous order Wednesday that said the state is not on track to fully fund public schools by a court-imposed deadline of September 1, 2018.

Beginning next year, Washington state senators and Senate staff will be required to take annual sexual harassment training. The Senate’s operations committee unanimously approved that requirement at a meeting Tuesday night.

The state of Washington has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit involving a 7-year-old girl named Cheyene who was rescued from a trash and feces-filled house in Lake Stevens in 2015.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the retrial of former Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

Washington lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week for “Committee Days” in advance of next January’s regular legislative session. Distracted driving and salmon net pens will be on the agenda.

Democrats had the early advantage in the race for control of the Washington state Senate as Democrat Manka Dhingra led Republican Jinyoung Englund by 10 points in a special election on the eastside of Lake Washington.

A former legislative assistant for Washington state House Democrats says she was sexually harassed by Rep. Jim Jacks nearly two years before he was forced to resign for “inappropriate behavior,” but that the House’s system for addressing misconduct failed her.

A Washington state lawmaker who abruptly resigned his seat in March 2011 had been accused by a female staff member of inappropriate behavior.  

That’s according to a statement released late Wednesday by House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan in response to renewed questions from the media about the resignation of Democrat Jim Jacks of Vancouver.  

Leaders in the Washington Legislature said they won’t tolerate sexual harassment, and encourage women to report unwanted attention from men. Those comments follow our investigation with The News Tribune of Tacoma into the workplace climate at the state Capitol.

Nicole Grant was excited when she arrived at the state Capitol in 2010 to lobby on behalf of the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington. A journeyman electrician by training, Grant would be representing her fellow union members on issues such as workplace rights and safety.

Grant quickly realized that the workplace climate in Olympia was different than anything she had experienced.

CAMPAIGN PHOTOS

The state senate race in Washington’s 45th legislative district is a special election that has generated a lot of interest and record-setting, six-figure donations.

Republican Jinyoung Englund and Democrat Manka Dhingra are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Republican Andy Hill, who died of cancer last October.

The owner of a decaying central Washington mobile home park has agreed to make repairs and pay restitution to his mostly Latino farm worker tenants as part of a settlement in a two-year old lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The Washington Legislature enacted a new state property tax this year to shift the burden of school funding off local levies. But the question before the state Supreme Court Tuesday was whether Washington lawmakers fully funded schools as required by the court .

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Joel’s Law allows families in Washington state to petition a court to involuntarily commit a mentally ill loved one. In Pierce County, home to Tacoma, nearly 100 percent of petitions are granted, but in Seattle’s King County, most are rejected.

Candidates are breaking spending records in a special election that will decide which party controls the Washington Senate.

Republican Jinyoung Englund and Democrat Manka Dhingra are vying to fill an open state Senate seat in Washington’s 45th legislative district which stretches from Kirkland to Duvall.

With Election Day less than a month away, money is pouring into Washington state political action committees. Much of that cash will likely find its way to a special state Senate race on the east side of Lake Washington.

The outcome of that race will determine which party controls the Senate. 


In the living room of her Olympia home, Crystal opens up a large file box that contains her son’s life history.

“As a mom you keep those shot records and those test scores in their little file even if they’re in their 20s,” said Crystal, whose last name we’re not using to protect her son's identity.

But this plastic box has something else: a detailed record of her son’s battle with addiction and mental illness beginning when he was 12.

In 2008, Christopher Poulos went to federal prison for dealing cocaine in his home state of Maine. Today, he’s a licensed lawyer who’s been hired to lead Washington’s effort to help prison inmates transition back into society.

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