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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LM Otero / AP Photo

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington who get arrested in the new year may find themselves ordered to blow into a breathalyzer twice a day. Starting Jan. 1, three counties and two small cities will begin piloting a 24/7 sobriety program modeled after one in South Dakota.

Isabel Esterman / Flickr

 

After Jan. 1, rioting will still be a crime in Washington, but it will get a new name. And Seahawks fans will have a new way to show their loyalty to the team.

Eric Hernandez / Washington Department of Corrections

It’s no easy task to find doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to take a job in a prison. The stigma alone is a major barrier. Not to mention concerns about personal safety.

Plus, prisons are often in out-of-the-way places.

Now, recruiting and retaining prison health care workers may get even harder because of the Affordable Care Act.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Five Republican state senators did not violate Washington ethics law when they accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists earlier this year, according to a ruling made public Friday by Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board.

However, the board added the situation raises “serious questions” and an “enforceable” rule is needed.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time for a discussion on raising the state’s already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage. The Democrat’s comments Thursday come in the wake of a vote in the city of SeaTac and a new push by Seattle Mayor-Elect Ed Murray to raise the local minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The governor stopped short of calling for a $15 statewide minimum wage.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says he stands by the decision to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks to Boeing in an effort to win the 777X. But in comments made Thursday, he made it clear he doesn’t like playing the corporate tax subsidy game. 

Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee’s hopes for a gas tax package agreement before the end of the year have been dashed. The Democrat announced  Wednesday evening that with no deal at hand, talks are over for now, but will resume in January.

Inslee made his announcement flanked by House and Senate transportation leaders. It follows a dozen negotiating sessions in recent weeks. Among the roadblocks to agreement: a dispute over whether to put sales tax proceeds from transportation projects back into transportation instead of the state’s general fund.

presensa420 / Flickr

The amount of marijuana smoked, eaten and otherwise consumed in Washington each year is double the original projections, according to a long-awaited study released Wednesday by the RAND Corporation.

The findings come as Washington prepares to license hundreds of new marijuana businesses.

Austin Jenkins

More prison beds, but no cost-of-living raises for school teachers were the two takeaways after Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday proposed a modest update to the state’s two-year budget.

As Washington moves to legalize recreational pot, the U.S. Department of Justice is prioritizing preventing so-called “leakage” to other states like Oregon and Idaho.

Barcodes will help the state track marijuana from seed to sale. But technology alone won’t keep Washington pot in Washington. And some think the concern about leakage is overblown.

Credit: Chambers Retirement Video 2012

In 12 years on the Washington Supreme Court, Justice Tom Chambers authored two groundbreaking opinions: one on foster care, the other on indigent defense. The former justice died late Wednesday at the age of 70.

In 2003, Chambers wrote the unanimous majority opinion in a case that put a spotlight on how often foster children in Washington bounce from home to home. 

Associated Press

Washington lawmakers will soon get clearer guidance on when it’s appropriate to accept free meals from lobbyists.

The state’s Legislative Ethics Board on Tuesday wrapped up a months-long review of lobbyist-paid meals. The move followed our investigation earlier this year into lawmakers who regularly dine out at lobbyist expense.

Like the weather, political relations in the Washington state Capitol have taken a frosty turn.

With split control of the Legislature, grueling negotiations have become the norm, first on the budget earlier this year and now on transportation funding. And the partisan divide cuts against a refrain you hear a lot in Olympia: “We’re not Washington, D.C.”

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Tuesday is the deadline is for states to submit their bids to Boeing in hopes of winning the 777X assembly line.

Washington is competing with more than a dozen other locations to build the next generation wide-body airliner. The competitors include Utah, California, Missouri and Alabama.  

Gov. Jay Inslee has been dealt a setback in his campaign to reduce carbon emissions. The governor’s climate change workgroup quickly adjourned Friday with no consensus and after some testy exchanges.

Inslee wanted the workgroup to adopt five recommendations to the Legislature, including a proposal for the state to enact a market-based cap on carbon pollution. But when it came time for the Republicans on the panel to weigh in, they made it clear all of the governor’s proposals were non-starters—at least without more information on the cost.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The president of the St. Louis machinists union now says he’s “prepared and ready to sit down with Boeing” to discuss moving 777X production to Missouri. The union chief’s comments Thursday come one day after he said the work should remain in Washington.

The president of the machinists union in St. Louis says Boeing should build the 777X in Washington. And he’s angrily denying reports that his members would accept the Boeing contract recently rejected by Northwest machinists.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

A team at Washington’s Department of Commerce is working to complete a lengthy questionnaire for Boeing as part of a multi-state competition to land the 777X assembly line.

Meantime, state lawmakers in Missouri convened Monday in a special session aimed at improving that state’s chances.

Associated Press

The issue of tax transparency in Washington is getting fresh attention on the heels of a major tax deal for Boeing. The message Friday at a legislative hearing was that the public deserves to know how much publicly-traded companies pay in state taxes.

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

Time is running out for Washington lawmakers to agree on a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package. If they don’t act soon, a vote could be delayed for another year, said two key transportation leaders on Thursday.

Senators Tracey Eide, a Democrat, and Curtis King, a Republican, co-chair the Senate transportation committee.

“I’m worried that if we don’t do it in December, I don’t know if we’re going to see it next session,” said Eide, D-Federal Way.

Austin Jenkins / KPLU

Washington voters can expect dueling gun-related measures on next fall’s ballot. Sponsors of a gun rights initiative submitted nearly 350,000 signatures Thursday. 

Thirteen boxes labeled “Save Your Gun: Yes on 591” were loaded onto a cart and trucked into the Washington Secretary of State’s Office. Initiative 591 would prohibit the state from confiscating a gun without due process. It would also bar state background checks that go beyond federal standards.

Washington’s mostly-Republican Senate majority will formally unveil a proposed 12-year $12 billion transportation funding package Thursday. 

The move comes as environmentalists warn the details of the plan threaten to doom ongoing negotiations for a gas tax package.

The number of families on cash assistance in Washington has hit an all-time low following a spike in welfare enrollment less than three years ago.

Republicans in the Washington Senate say the downward trend is a sign reform efforts have worked, but advocates for poor families disagree.

Washington lawmakers recently rushed into special session to pass $8.7 billion in aerospace tax breaks in an attempt to land assembly work of Boeing’s next generation 777 airplane.

But how much does Boeing, or any other major company in Washington, pay in taxes? That’s actually a closely-guarded secret. Now, one state lawmaker wants to change that, and a hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

Austin Jenkins

The 30-day window for marijuana business licenses applications has opened in Washington. Would-be growers, processors and retailers applied online and in-person Monday.

At the Department of Revenue business licensing office, the flow of in-person applicants was more of a trickle, not a torrent on this historic day.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Jeff Gilmore, who was among the first to apply for a license to grow legal pot after a career of growing illegally. “The state of Washington took two years of my life for growing marijuana two decades ago.”

Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

State lawmakers are negotiating a proposed gas tax package, a top priority of Gov. Jay Inslee and the Boeing company as it decides where to site the 777X assembly line.

Now that Boeing machinists have rejected a company contract offer, Washington will have to compete with other states to land the 777X. Inslee says approval of a transportation funding measure is essential to positioning the state well.

Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

Bill and Melinda Gates have each contributed $25,000 to the campaign to require background checks for most gun sales in Washington. The couple’s personal contributions late last month helped push the Yes on Initiative 594 campaign over the $1 million mark.

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

Austin Jenkins

The state of Washington is expected to sign a 30-year lease Tuesday for Seattle’s iconic Pacific Tower, or the so-called PacMed building, on Beacon Hill. The idea is to turn the former headquarters of Amazon.com into a hub for health care innovation and training. 

The plan is reminiscent of another big real estate decision the state made nearly 20 years ago—one that’s proven costly.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

As Washington lawmakers convene in an effort to win production of the next Boeing 777x, there’s already a dispute over whether one of the must-haves is a gas tax package for transportation improvements.

Gov. Jay Inslee insists the time is now, but some lawmakers say road funding can wait.

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