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.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democratic lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon are working on measures to require background checks for all gun sales. A universal check proposal was introduced Wednesday in the Washington House. A similar bill is expected in the Oregon Senate soon.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – One of the key battles shaping up in Olympia this year is over education reform. The Senate’s new majority coalition is proposing a series of measures aimed at getting better results in the classroom. Among the ideas: a state takeover of failing schools. Meanwhile, a key Senate Democrat says the focus should be on school funding – and proposes a new capital gains tax.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the eyes of the nation will be on the state as it creates a legal marijuana market over the next year. The new governor said Thursday that along with legalization comes the expectation that illegal pot production and sales will mostly end.

Inslee doesn’t expect a clear answer from the Obama administration anytime soon on how the federal government will respond to Washington’s new marijuana law. He met earlier this week with US Attorney General Eric Holder.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The partisan fallout continues in the Washington state Senate over its response to how a controversial Republican senator treats staff. Minority Democrats took to the Senate floor Wednesday to accuse the new majority of caring more about who leaked a report about Senator Pam Roach than creating a safe workplace.

OLYMPIA, Wash. –The first public forum on how to implement Washington’s new marijuana law drew a capacity crowd Tuesday night in Olympia. The state’s Liquor Control Board is seeking input as it writes the rules for enacting Initiative 502 – Washington’s new pot legalization law.

They arrived early and in droves – the smell of marijuana clung in the air. First in line to get a seat for the forum was Leslie Tikka of Olympia. She mainly came to see a bit of history in the making.

OLYMPIA, Wash. –A new governing coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats is now in control of the Washington state senate. The power shift happened Monday as the legislature convened for a 105-day budget writing session.

The day began as the first day of session always does with plenty of formalities – including an a cappella rendition of the national anthem.

But that harmony wouldn’t last. Soon Democrats lost a vote to lead the Senate as the majority party. That paved the way for the new philosophical majority to introduce its own governing rules.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – We’re starting to see real world fallout from some of the state budget cuts made in last few years. One of the clearest examples in Washington is juvenile parole. It turns out that the chief suspect in a recent high profile bar shooting had committed a previous murder – but did not qualify for intensive parole supervision because of cutbacks. One study finds juveniles who don’t receive parole are far more likely to be re-arrested within nine months of their release.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – One measure of success for governors is their ability to get better results out of schools. As Washington Governor Chris Gregoire prepares to leave office, the state’s high school graduation and dropout rates have improved, but not a lot. And there’s still a significant achievement gap between white and non-white students.

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) will “have to learn” to negotiate. That tough talk comes from former Republican Governor Dan Evans in reaction to the announcement that a philosophical majority of Republicans and two Democrats have formed to take control of the state Senate for the 2013 session.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Some Washington Democrats are reacting angrily to a power grab in the state senate. A coalition of Republicans and two breakaway Democrats announced Monday they will seize the majority, but share power.

The chair of the Washington State Democratic Party says Senators Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon are turning their backs on their own party. The two Democrats say they will join forces with Republicans to govern the chamber from the middle.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A big shake-up in the control of the Washington state senate could have major implications for how lawmakers address funding for schools next year. A coalition of Republicans and two breakaway Democrats announced Monday it has just enough votes to depose the current Democratic majority.

The chair of the Washington Democratic party calls it a “coup” and a “prescription for instability and division.” But former Republican turned Democrat Rodney Tom -- who will lead the new majority coalition -- says voters want governing from the middle.

OLYMPIA, Wash. and KENNEWICK, Wash. – In Washington’s capital city, the county auditor was also prepared for a rush of marriage-license applicants. Instead, it felt like business as usual. Just one couple got showed up.

Deborah Dulaney and Diane McGee dressed warmly and brought an umbrella. They figured they’d be waiting out in the rain to get a wedding license on day one.

“Then we just walk right in," Diane says. "It was nice, but I’m kind of disappointed. I wanted to party.”

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Washington’s newly elected governor, attorney general and secretary of state are busy hiring staff, announcing transition teams and setting up shop in the Capitol. But newly elected Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley hasn’t been seen much.

Kelley is a Democratic State Representative who was elected to replace outgoing auditor Brian Sonntag who’s held the office for 20 years. Sonntag says he met Kelley for coffee after the election.


OLYMPIA, Wash. – On the eve of same-sex marriage taking effect in Washington, Governor Chris Gregoire hosted an emotional ceremony in her office. Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the results of the vote to uphold Washington’s new marriage equality law.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Pot becomes legal in Washington on Thursday. But state officials have not even begun to write the complicated rules for who can grow it, process it and sell. That year-long process begins Wednesday.

By the end of this week, adult possession of up to one ounce of usable marijuana will no longer be a crime in Washington. But Initiative 502 -- approved by voters in November -- does much more than decriminalize possession. It requires the state to license and regulate marijuana producers, processors and retailers.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The competition among counties to issue the first same-sex marriage license in Washington is heating up. Monday, one county auditor held a lottery to select the first ten couples who will receive their license just after midnight on Thursday.

Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman -- who is also Secretary of State-elect -- heard Seattle’s King County intended to issue the first license.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A rash of accidental shootings involving kids and unsecured guns has some Washington lawmakers considering a change in the law. A legislative panel will meet Friday to discuss ways to prevent children from getting their hands on firearms.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend 2009. Maurice Clemmons, an Arkansas felon living in Washington, walks into a coffee shop and guns down four Lakewood police officers. Pierce County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ed Troyer described the scene as "more of an execution.”

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