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.

Sponsors of an initiative to require universal background checks for gun sales in Washington have submitted 250,000 petition signatures. That’s the minimum needed to put the measure before the legislature in January.

If lawmakers fail to act, voters would see it on the ballot a year from now.

Supporters of Initiative 594 cheered as boxes of petitions were rolled into the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

Wheeling the cart was Cheryl Stumbo. She’s a survivor of the 2006 Jewish Federation shooting in Seattle.

It’s the hottest issue on Washington’s fall ballot: an initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, says he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote on Initiative 522.

Three Washington-based soldiers are in jail after the stabbing death of a fellow soldier over the weekend. The arrests came after the person who allegedly wielded the knife sought medical treatment for a cut to his hand.

Police say the murder happened off base following an exchange of words between two groups of Joint Base Lewis-McChord servicemen. A roadside confrontation seemed to end peacefully once everyone realized they were fellow soldiers.

Mexican drug cartels operate an illicit export business that depends on freeways that run from California and Arizona to Canada. 

After a rocky start, Washington’s health plan finder website is now running smoothly. That’s according to a spokesman for the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.

A former Democratic operative in Washington has admitted to embezzling campaign money. Michael Walter King pleaded guilty Thursday in King County Superior Court.

It was a rocky start to Obamacare in Washington. The state’s new health insurance website is up now, but it was shut down for most of the day because of technical glitches.

Before legal marijuana in Washington hits store shelves, it will have to be tested. Special pot labs will check for potency, molds, foreign matter and bacteria like E. Coli.

It could cost the state of Washington more than $250 million over 30 years.to lease and operate the former headquarters of Amazon.com.

Washington Senate Democrats say the misuse of campaign funds last year may have cost them a key race – and therefore control of the state Senate.

U.S. guitar makers are under scrutiny these days because of the rare woods they sometimes use. One of those prized woods is found only in the Pacific Northwest.

The staff at Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission has recommended changes to how lobbyists report their meals out with lawmakers. 

The Washington Supreme Court has sided with a wheelchair-bound pot user who lacked an official medical marijuana card. In a split ruling Thursday, the high court said even non-card-holding patients can mount a medical necessity defense at trial.

Slow and steady. That’s how Washington’s chief economic forecaster sums up the recovery in state revenues.

"Big Bertha" should soon get back to work digging a nearly two mile tunnel to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct.

In Washington, DC they’re called earmarks: the money members of Congress put in the budget for projects back home. In Washington state, there’s a more genteel term: member requests.

Since taking office in January, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has raised the salaries for several cabinet level positions. In total, those raises add up to nearly $100,000 over the course of a year. The boost in salaries comes even as the state continues to recover financially.

The biggest pay hike went for the position of director of Department of Licensing. That’s the agency that handles driver licenses and license plates among other duties. The new director – Pat Kohler – earns $141,000 per year. That’s a 17 percent increase over her predecessor.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee wants to more than double the number of state-funded preschool slots by 2019. He also wants to decrease the number of SUVs purchased by the state.

The conflict between federal law and pot legalization in Washington and Colorado will be on the agenda in Congress this week.

Marijuana-based businesses in Washington will be able to pay their taxes in cash. That’s the word from the state’s Department of Revenue.

The agency is gearing up for more cash filers in its field offices.

Most banks are unwilling to open accounts for marijuana businesses because of the federal prohibition on pot. That means Washington’s new, legal recreational marijuana market could be a largely cash-based enterprise.

Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board is tackling the issue of how often lawmakers can accept meals from lobbyists. The Board spent nearly two hours behind closed doors Thursday discussing a complaint against several lawmakers who dined out regularly with lobbyists last session.

The complaint was triggered by our investigation with the Associated Press into lawmakers who accept free meals from lobbyists. That’s permitted if legislative business is discussed, but only on an infrequent basis.

Flickr Photo/prensa4 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Washington could have as many as 334 marijuana retail stores statewide. That’s the cap proposed on Wednesday by the state’s Liquor Control Board.

We’re about to find out the number of marijuana retail store locations that will be allowed in each of Washington’s 39 counties.

There are nearly 900 registered lobbyists in Washington state. These are the paid professionals who try to influence the outcome of the legislative process. But this year, a determined dad proved even outsiders can play the legislative game – with a bit of help.

So how does a Microsoft test manager become a citizen lobbyist? For Jeff Schwartz it all started back in 2007 when his son Jacob was about four months old.

“It was right about December that he started excessively throwing up and vomiting,” Schwartz recalls.

It was the call Governor Jay Inslee has been waiting for since the beginning of the year. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder giving Washington – and Colorado – the green light to proceed with marijuana legalization. But the feds reserve the right to intervene if they see problems.

Legal pot? Not so fast. That’s the message from a growing number of Washington cities.

Several municipalities are considering whether to pass a moratorium on pot-related businesses. Others – like Bellingham and Olympia – have already enacted temporary bans.

Richland, Pasco and Kennewick are just the latest Washington cities to consider moratoriums. But it’s not just more conservative eastern Washington communities. Liberal Bellingham and Olympia have said ‘time out’ when it comes to legal, recreational pot.

AP Photo/Peter Millett

Staff Sgt Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty in June to the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, is being tried before a military jury of six who will decide whether he should be eligible for parole. Nine Afghan villagers who survived the massacre have flown to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the sentencing trial.

The state of Washington has compiled a lengthy list of pesticides for marijuana growers to use -- even though these chemicals are not officially approved for pot. The new list is part of the state’s ongoing effort to regulate the production of legal, recreational marijuana.

The state of Washington is just beginning the process of writing new rules to govern hospital mergers. But already there’s controversy over what role the state should play when religious health care providers propose to take over hospitals.

The pace of hospital mergers has picked up in recent years amid a climate of healthcare consolidation. Many of them involved Catholic-based providers. The ACLU of Washington and other organizations are concerned this trend could limit access to end-of-life and reproductive services.

Call it a case of “lost in translation.” Washington and Oregon’s new health insurance exchanges are getting poor marks for their efforts to communicate with foreign language audiences.

On the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website you can find fact sheets in eight foreign languages – from Cambodian to Somali. These one and two page documents are supposed to help uninsured families navigate the new world of the Affordable Care Act.

Pages