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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Typically a survivor of domestic violence would never know if their abuser tried to buy a gun and was denied after a background check. But now a state lawmaker and a domestic violence survivor want to change that.

A sentencing calculation error that led to the early release of nearly 3,000 Washington prison inmates over more than a decade came to light one year ago this month. And Washington’s interim Secretary of Corrections has warned a similar mistake could happen again.

Washington’s only maximum security prison for women is overcrowded. That means some inmates are being housed at the Yakima County Jail. Now family members are calling on the Gov. Jay Inslee to halt those transfers.

In 2014, Washington’s Medicaid program resumed covering dental care for adults. That was celebrated by advocates for the poor. But on Thursday, a panel of lawmakers will hear about ongoing challenges to that program.

Washington jails are old, crowded and holding people who are disabled, mentally ill and often haven’t yet been convicted of a crime. County jails are often the first stop for people who enter the criminal justice system.

Disabled inmates are suffering from discrimination and isolation in Washington jails. That’s the finding of a report out Wednesday from Disability Rights Washington.

What happens when someone who’s not supposed to have a gun lies about their background and tries to buy one? In Washington state, the answer is not much.

FBI records show that between January and August of this year, 3,259 would-be gun buyers in Washington failed a federal background check. But police and prosecutors rarely, if ever, pursue these people.

Washington state Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, is being remembered as a social liberal who was a friend to rural Washington. Hill died last month after a recurrence of cancer. He was memorialized Monday on the Senate floor.

If there was a “Trump effect” in Washington state, it showed up in four mostly rural western Washington counties. Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Cowlitz counties went for President Obama in 2012. But Donald Trump managed to flip them.

If the presidential race was a stunner, Washington state’s elections were not. Gov. Jay Inslee cruised to re-election as expected. And there were no upsets further down the ballot either.

Three incumbent Washington Supreme Court justices appear headed to easy re-election. Justices Mary Yu, Barbara Madsen and Charlie Wiggins are all leading their challengers by double digit margins.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee was cruising to re-election Tuesday night with 56 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Bill Bryant. But several other statewide races were still too close to call, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Washington prison inmates will no longer be called “offenders.” The Secretary of Corrections made that announcement in an all-staff message Tuesday.

First they called for her resignation. Now the Republican leaders of the Washington House and Senate are calling for the suspension of the director of the state’s campaign finance watchdog.

Negative ads work. That’s why political campaigns air them. But these days figuring out who’s funding them can be like unraveling a mystery. And to follow the money you have to unpack and keeping unpacking the PACS.

The lead budget writer in the Washington state Senate has died of lung cancer at age 54. Republican Andy Hill’s family announced his death Tuesday.

A new white paper by the Washington state attorney general’s office finds the state’s system of conducting background checks for gun purchases to be fragmented, complex and inconsistent.

The director of Washington’s campaign finance watchdog, Evelyn Fielding Lopez, said if she had a do-over she wouldn’t weigh-in on the accuracy of political campaign ads in a hotly contested state Senate race.

It’s the question everyone seems to be asking. What effect will Donald Trump have on down ballot Republicans?

A political action committee largely funded by three wealthy Washingtonians has unleashed a hard-hitting attack on a state Supreme Court justice up for re-election. The TV ad suggests Justice Charlie Wiggins is soft on crime.

Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Bill Gates, and Steve and Connie Ballmer are among a growing list of wealthy Washingtonians who want to change the makeup of Washington’s Supreme Court. They are the top donors to a new political action committee called Citizens for Working Courts.

Washington’s race for governor is a lopsided affair. Incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee has a three-to-one fundraising advantage over Republican challenger Bill Bryant. And polls show Inslee with a 10 point lead.

But that’s not stopping Bryant from trying to make the campaign a referendum on Inslee’s leadership.

A trio of wealthy Washingtonians has just put $350,000 into an effort to defeat a sitting state Supreme Court justice. Their target is Charlie Wiggins who’s been on the court since 2011.

Gun rights and gun control advocates are reacting to the first prosecution under Washington’s Initiative 594, the 2014 law that requires a background check for person-to-person gun sales.

The case involves a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident named Mark Mercado who allegedly gave or sold a .22-caliber pistol to an acquaintance last November. Prosecutors said that gun was then used a day later in the murder of 17-year-old John Skyler Johnson, known as “Jay.”

The race for Washington lands commissioner pits an environmental lawyer against a supporter of two imprisoned Oregon ranchers. Both candidates are relatively unknown to voters.

In what’s believed to be the first prosecution under a 2014 voter-approved background check law, a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident has been charged with illegally transferring a .22-caliber pistol that was later used in a homicide.

The practice of automatically charging 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes is coming under scrutiny. The issue will come up Monday at a youth justice conference in Seattle and Tuesday during a Washington Supreme Court hearing.

If you live in western Washington, chances are you get your power or your natural gas or both from Puget Sound Energy. The state’s largest utility company serves more than a million customers in 10 counties.

But it’s not just energy that PSE trades in. The company also helps power campaigns and elections in Washington through political contributions.

This year, a pair of wealthy southwest Washington businessmen have emerged as major donors to state Republicans. Billionaire investor Ken Fisher and developer Clyde Holland are stepping up their contributions as control of the Washington legislature hangs in the balance.

Some Northwest Republicans are denouncing and in some cases distancing themselves from Donald Trump because of his lewd comments about women.

But not all.

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