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

Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

A north Idaho teenager accused of killing his father and brother is no longer being held in solitary confinement at an adult county jail. A judge on Tuesday approved an agreement allowing 15-year-old Eldon Samuel to be moved back to juvenile detention, overriding a previous judge’s decision.

Washington’s August primary appears to have delivered an historic first. Two Republicans are likely to advance to the November election in central Washington’s Fourth Congressional District.

Never before has the state’s top-two primary produced two contenders of the same party for a Congressional seat. 

It’s primary day in Washington. Tuesday’s vote will decide a parks levy in Seattle and narrow the field in dozens of state legislative and Congressional races.

Ballots for the all vote-by-mail election are due in drop boxes by 8 p.m.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a multi-state AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped California teenager.

A group of Idaho backcountry horsemen came across 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her abductor James Lee DiMaggio last August. When the four horsemen got home, they saw the news of the kidnapping and called police. Anderson was ultimately rescued and DiMaggio was shot to death by a federal agent.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer plans to try to help Democrats win back the Washington state Senate.

Steyer and his NextGen Political Action Committee plan to target three to four state legislative races, likely Washington state Senate races. They will work in coordination with state environmentalists who have their own political action committees.

Washington State Redistricting Commission

Washington voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their primary ballots. Secretary of State Kim Wyman projects a turnout of about 40 percent.

Among others, the primary will winnow the crowded fields for an open central Washington Congressional seat and a Seattle-area state Senate position.

"First Cut," a collaborative series produced in partnership with the Tacoma News Tribune, tells the stories of the farmers behind Washington's marijuana crop.

Correspondent Anna King and Tacoma News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader talked to Austin Jenkins about their joint effort.

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

You’ve heard of your Miranda rights, but did you know that most state constitutions also give you a right to a bail bondsman?

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed that criminal defendants can go to a third-party, like a bondsman, who will put up bail for a fee.

Courtesy of the Ransdell family.

These days, you can often find contract firefighters on the front lines. They’re usually indistinguishable from government firefighters.

But a recent court ruling has made it clear: if they’re killed in the line of duty, their families are not eligible for federal survivor benefits.

Supporters of a Washington gun control measure on the November ballot may have just gotten a mid-summer boost. They’re capitalizing on an audio recording that recently surfaced.

The hard-to-understand audio recording first appeared on the left-wing blog “Horses Ass.” The blog’s author said the audio is of NRA lobbyist Brian Judy speaking recently to a pro-gun group. Judy questioned Jewish people who are anti-guns.

Inciweb

The lights are coming back on in fire-swept north-central Washington. A major transmission line was restored late last week, but not everyone has their power back.

As of Monday about 900 customers remain in the dark as a result of the state’s largest wildfire.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tried to woo electric carmaker Tesla Motors to build a massive battery factory in the Evergreen state. But according to at least one report, the company may have already broken ground near Reno, Nevada.

Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

In north Idaho, a 15-year-old boy sits in an isolated jail cell awaiting trial for murder. Eldon Samuel III is accused of shooting to death his father and younger brother in March

Juveniles accused of crimes like this are automatically charged as adults in Idaho. But now, Samuel’s lawyer and the ACLU are trying to get him moved out of solitary confinement at the adult county jail. They say his isolation amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Tuesday President Obama has pledged immediate federal aid to help fire-swept areas of north central Washington.

A judge in Bellingham has ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

Washington Public Disclosure Commission

Washington’s Aug. 5 primary is now less than a month away. It’s a mid-term election year with no statewide offices on the ballot. Even so, nearly $33 million have already been contributed to campaigns.

A Washington man whose loaded gun went off in a school backpack, critically injuring a student can’t be charged with third-degree assault, Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The split decision stems from a high-profile case in 2012 in Bremerton.

Washington’s jobless rate has dropped to below 6 percent — the lowest level in six years, according to the June jobs report released Wednesday.

Seattle’s King County is leading the recovery, but most Washington counties remain above the statewide average. And some rural counties of the state are much higher.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority.

So what’s the solution? Washington could release some older inmates who are serving long sentences. But lawmakers are wary of a political backlash. The state abolished parole in the 1980s.

That leaves clemency as the remaining pressure-relief valve on the prison system. And that system of mercy may not be up to the task.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Support for a gun rights measure on Washington’s fall ballot is flagging, according to a new Elway poll released Tuesday. Meanwhile, a dueling measure that would expand background checks remains popular.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.

A Japanese airplane maker will test its new regional jet in Moses Lake, Washington. Mitsubishi Aircraft Company made that announcement Monday at the Farnborough Air Show in England. 

Gov. Jay Inslee is attending the air show with a delegation. He told reporters in a conference call that Mitsubishi’s investment could put central Washington on the global map for flight tests.

Police in Washington can “stop and frisk” individuals they have specific reason to believe may be armed. But if that search goes beyond a “brief and nonintrusive” search, then it’s unconstitutional, according to a finding by the Washington Supreme Court Thursday.

Washington’s recreational marijuana market is open for business. From Seattle to Bellingham to Prosser, marijuana stores opened for business Tuesday to excited customers who lined up, dressed up and celebrated the end of pot prohibition.

Austin Jenkins

The first legal marijuana stores in Washington are scheduled to open Tuesday. The Liquor Control Board issued the first 24 retail licenses early Monday.

But state officials warn of high prices and short supply in the beginning. Even so that’s not keeping away some would-be customers.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Washington’s prison system has announced a major policy change when it comes to inmates who harm themselves. The Department of Corrections said Thursday that it will no longer sanction inmates for cutting or other acts of self-injury.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Washington’s Liquor Control Board plans to issue about 20 marijuana retail licenses next Monday, and the first pot stores could open the next day following a 24-hour waiting period.

But the state cautions many stores may not be ready yet for customers and marijuana could be in short supply.

Austin Jenkins

People in the fireworks business say their job is to make people happy. But as the Fourth of July approaches, Entertainment Fireworks in Tenino, Washington, one of the largest fireworks companies in the Northwest, is reeling.

On June 18, a longtime seasonal employee was killed in an on-the-job explosion and fire.

AP Photo

Should SeaTac’s voter-approved $15 per hour minimum wage apply to workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport? Washington’s Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that question today.

The case pits airport vendors, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle against supporters of the higher wage.

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Washington state’s prison system is projected to need 1,000 new beds by 2018. And that growth has Gov. Jay Inslee concerned.

Inslee on Tuesday announced a Department of Justice-backed review of the state’s criminal justice system. The goal is to look for ways to save money without jeopardizing public safety.

U.S. Army

The death of a soldier based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over the weekend highlights the danger of training for war. Private Andrew Sass was killed Saturday in an incident at the National Training Center in California.

Pages