Austin Jenkins | KUOW News and Information

Austin Jenkins

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. His 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. Austin is the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Washington State Association for Justice.

When there is money left over from political campaigns, what do elected officials do with it? Records show that since Election Day more than a dozen Washington state lawmakers have dipped into leftover campaign cash for pay for everything from cellphones to meals out to travel.

And this “surplus campaign spending” gets little scrutiny.

The Washington Soldiers Home has been ordered to take steps to protect it residents. The order by outside regulators follows a recent investigation that found “widespread deficiencies” at the nursing home for veterans.

The Washington Soldiers Home is a state-run facility that serves veterans, their spouses or widows and Gold Star parents.

The Washington State Patrol has put another dent in its trooper shortage. Forty-nine new troopers were sworn-in Wednesday at a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.

Among the troopers in formation was Robert Reyer of Salzburg, Austria. 



Washington state has a new secretary of Corrections. Stephen Sinclair has been with the department for 28 years. Most recently he was in charge of the prison division. He was previously the superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla.




Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will likely call lawmakers back into special session on Monday. This comes as the clock runs out on the 105-day regular session without a budget deal--or agreement on school funding.

That’s led to plenty of finger-pointing at the Capitol.  

Washington lawmakers are about to go into an overtime session because they can’t reach a budget deal. But Wednesday another issue briefly took center stage in the Republican-led Senate budget committee: dandelions.

Washington state Senate Republicans and House Democrats are at loggerheads over how to fund schools. Republicans want to replace local school levies with a new state property tax levy. Democrats want a new capital gains tax to generate more money for schools.

In what has become the new normal, Washington state lawmakers are expected to go into an overtime session because they’ve been unable to agree on a state operating budget or a plan to fully fund public schools.

The regular 105-day session ends Sunday, April 23.

Marches and rallies are a common occurrence at the Washington Capitol. But recently Verizon Wireless staged a different kind of demonstration. It was part of an ongoing lobbying effort to get lawmakers to pass industry-friendly legislation. 




A measure to crack down on prohibited gun buyers in Washington has unexpectedly died in the Republican-led state Senate. The bipartisan proposal failed to get a vote before a key deadline this week.

One casualty of the looming end of Washington state’s legislative session is a bill on police use of deadly force.

Washington has one of the highest bars in the nation for charging police officers who use deadly force. They are protected as long as they act in good faith and without malice.

Put down your phone and drive. That’s the message from Washington lawmakers.

The Washington House passed a new distracted driving law Wednesday and it needs one more vote in the Senate before it goes to the governor.

It’s taken five years, but injured railroad worker Dwight Hauck sees victory at hand. Washington lawmakers are on the verge of requiring new safety standards for private transport companies that shuttle rail crews between trains. 


On March 23, 2011, union railroader Hauck nearly lost his life. He was the lone survivor of a crash in a rail yard in Kelso, Washington. 


“I don’t remember anything at all,” Hauck said. 

 


In at least 20 state capitols across the country this year, the wireless industry is pushing legislation to streamline local permitting for the next generation of cellular technology.

In Washington state, that's putting the industry on a collision course with cities and towns.

Instead of soaring towers with antennas on top, future cell sites will adorn power poles and streetlights.

Time is running out for Washington lawmakers to negotiate a state budget that complies with a Supreme Court ruling to fully fund schools.

Since 2011, Washington’s prison system has deported 339 convicted felons instead of locking them up. The deportations are part of a voluntary program designed to reduce prison costs.

Democrats in the Washington state House have proposed a $3 billion tax package to help fund schools and social services over the next two years. The budget and tax plan unveiled Monday includes a new tax on capital gains.

Police, prosecutors and victims say it’s time for the state of Washington to crack down on prohibited gun buyers. Lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a proposal to require gun dealers to alert authorities when someone tries to buy a gun and fails a background check.

Washington Senate Republicans are looking for ways to save money on state subsidized child care for low-income families. And they think they’ve found a way.

Washington Senate Republicans have proposed a $5 billion increase in state spending over the next two years, including $1.8 billion more for public schools in an attempt to satisfy a Supreme Court ruling that found the state is not adequately funding K-12 education.

Washington’s 105-day legislative session is more than half over. But the big job of negotiating a new two-year state budget has yet to begin. Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their budget proposal early this week, followed by House Democrats.

President Donald Trump has made it clear climate change is not a priority for his administration, but it is still a top issue for Democratic governors and lawmakers in Washington and Oregon.

In Oregon, there’s talk of a cap-and-trade system. And in Washington, the idea of a carbon tax keeps popping up as Democrats and Republicans face off over the budget.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is calling the Republican healthcare plan in Congress “a disaster.” Inslee made his comments Wednesday as new projections on the impact to the state were released.

During a public hearing Tuesday, businesses said on a proposed carbon tax in Washington state would cost jobs and hurt the state’s economy.

Polluting industries in Washington state don’t like Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap on carbon emissions -- and they don’t think it’s legal.

Gun rights advocates are declaring victory after several firearms-related measures failed to advance in the Washington Legislature. But gun control advocates say they see momentum on their side.

The next generation of cell technology will feature smaller antennas in more places and will eventually lead to 5G connectivity. Wireless carriers are pushing legislation in Washington state to give them access to power poles, street lights and other public infrastructure for placement of the small antennas.

But this has created a fight with cities.

Washington state school districts will not go over the so-called “levy cliff.” At least not next year. The state House Thursday sent the governor a bipartisan measure to extend current levy capacity for another year.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he has “major concerns” about President Donald Trump’s new executive order on immigration and refugees. But the Democrat says the fact Trump rescinded his previous travel ban Monday represents a “victory.”

In 2014 and 2015, Washington's prison system experienced a spike in inmate suicides. During those two years 11 inmate deaths were ruled suicides, giving Washington one of the highest prison suicide rates in the country.

Richard Billings, Jr., 38

Child molestation

Sentence: 144 months

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