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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Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley was back in federal court Friday. He’s facing a second trial next year for charges related to his past real estate services business. His first trial ended with the jury acquitting him of making a false statement to the IRS but deadlocked on all other counts.

It’s back to school time. It was also back to court Wednesday for lawyers in an ongoing school funding lawsuit in Washington state.

Just as the school year begins, the Washington state Supreme Court will get an update Wednesday on school funding efforts in the state legislature. Tuesday, a panel of lawmakers got an earful.

The ongoing fight over school funding in Washington state is heading back to court. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before the Washington Supreme Court.

Washington Republicans say the way state employees collectively bargain pay and benefits is not transparent and presents a conflict of interest.

The company involved in a data breach involving Northwest fish and game licenses is a vendor the state of Washington has been trying to part ways with for years.

Online fishing and hunting license sales have now been suspended in Washington, Oregon and Idaho following a hacking incident. A Washington state official says some 7 million records across the three states were compromised, but the information was not terribly sensitive.

Anglers can fish for free and without a license in Washington waters through next Tuesday. That announcement from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday comes as the sale of all hunting and fishing licenses is temporarily suspended because of a cybersecurity breach. The Department said some personal information was accessed because of a vulnerability involving an outside vendor. Online license sales in Oregon and Idaho are also temporarily suspended. 

Lawyers for victims of the deadly 2014 Oso landslide say the state of Washington has engaged in a “shocking” cover-up to hide evidence. The allegation, first reported by The Seattle Times, comes just five weeks before the state goes on trial.

Unionized teachers and Realtors boast the largest political action committees in Washington state this election year. Both PACs have raised more than $2 million.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he’s disappointed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's decision not to reclassify marijuana. In a letter Thursday, the DEA said marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug for now.

It’s been 18 years since Republicans last controlled both chambers of the Washington legislature. They’re hoping 2016 is the year they can reclaim the majority. But that will require holding on to their narrow grip on the state Senate and flipping the Washington House -- something Democrats are determined not to let happen.

Washington Republicans are working hard this election cycle to hold onto their slim majority in the state Senate. And they’re getting some help from a new political action committee set up by the debt collection industry.

When you sink $40 million into a state-of-the art digital two-way radio system, you don’t expect to hear complaints. But delays, dead air and garbled transmissions have bedeviled a new Washington State Patrol radio system.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to return to Washington and Oregon at the end this month. The Washington Post reports Trump will hold high dollar fundraisers in Portland and Seattle as part of a west coast swing. He’s also expected to hold public events.

Thirty-seven new Washington State Patrol troopers graduated Wednesday during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Olympia. But they’re only making a dent in a big trooper shortage.

In a political year that's favored outsiders, two incumbent Democrats posted healthy showings over their Republican challengers in Washington's Tuesday primary.

What does a southwest Washington billionaire have in common with the former majority leader of the Washington Senate? They’ve teamed in an effort to unseat the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court.

Embattled Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is not seeking re-election. Five candidates are running in the August 2 primary to replace him and restoring trust in the office is a recurring theme of the campaigns.

Nine candidates are vying to replace outgoing Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. The results of the August 2 primary will pare that list down to two finalists for the non-partisan job.

Historic forest fires. The Oso landslide. Global warming. These are among the issues in the race for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands. The position oversees state trust lands that generate money for schools.

The commissioner must also navigate a constant tension between the timber industry and environmentalists.

The political spotlight this week is on the Republican convention in Cleveland. Next week it will move to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. But Washington voters have a political homework assignment that has nothing to do with the conventions -- and it’s due August 2.

The police force in Washington’s state capital is changing. Fourteen months ago a white police officer in Olympia shot two African-American brothers. The shooting triggered local protests, but not a national outcry -- the brothers survived, although one was paralyzed.

A group of climate activists is fasting on the steps of the Washington state Capitol this week as part of a protest against Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed cap on carbon emissions. The activists say the cap doesn’t go far enough.

The recent police shootings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota have reignited the debate over use of deadly force. That was on the mind of a black community leader in Washington state as she strapped on a gun belt and took aim inside a state-of-the-art training simulator for police.

At the Washington State Patrol Academy in Shelton, Corporal Lori Hinds guides a pair of visitors into what looks like a walk-in video game. Inside five, large video screens form a 300-degree computer-generated environment.

Washington voters will likely decide in November whether to raise the state minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave. Backers of the Raise Up Washington campaign say they will submit more than 360,000 signatures Wednesday -- virtually guaranteeing it a spot on the fall ballot.

The end is near for a veteran-owned medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Olympia. It’s a casualty of the state merging recreational and medical marijuana.

“Do you believe guns in the home make you less safe?”

“Who do you believe should legally be allowed to carry a concealed pistol on college campuses?”

Those are the kinds of questions political candidates are getting this year from gun control and gun rights groups.

Washington Democrats are gathering this weekend in Tacoma for their state convention. Just like with the state Republican convention in Pasco last month, Democrats are a party divided. Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee. But Bernie Sanders supporters represent the majority of delegates.

Washington state Democrats are confident they will avoid a Nevada-like meltdown at their state convention this weekend. Nevada’s Democratic convention devolved into chaos after Bernie Sanders supporters felt the process was rigged.