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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A Washington state correctional officer is recovering at home after a vicious assault. The attack came almost five years to the day after another prison guard was murdered. This latest incident is renewing questions about staffing levels inside Washington’s prisons.

Some school children say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Now Washington lawmakers are making a pledge: to end the reliance on local school district levies to fund basic education -- by next year.

Complying with a state Supreme Court order to fully fund public schools in Washington might have just gotten even harder. A new revenue forecast out Wednesday projects a sizable drop-off in tax dollars flowing to state coffers.

In the aftermath of last Friday's vote by the Republican-led Washington Senate not to confirm Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson, essentially firing her on the spot, an email went out to all staff at the Department of Transportation.

At age 15, Barry Massey walked into the Monroe Corrections Center to begin to serve a life sentence. The year was 1988. At the time, Massey was the youngest person in the United States sentenced to life without parole. On Tuesday, Massey walked out of that same prison a free man.

Barry Massey became a symbol for juvenile justice reform after he was sentenced to life in prison without parole at age 14. Now 42, Massey was released Tuesday after a change in state law.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Should Washington’s Constitution be amended to require a two-thirds vote for tax hikes? The Republican-led state Senate voted “yes” to that Friday. But supporters failed to muster the supermajority vote required to send the question to voters.

Republican budget writer Andy Hill of Redmond made the case for the higher threshold.

“I think it forces everybody to come together and make sure that when we do raise a tax it’s for a very, very good reason,” Hill said.

Democrat Reuven Carlyle of Seattle opposed the constitutional amendment.

Should Washington’s Constitution be amended to require a two-thirds vote for tax hikes? The Republican-led state Senate voted “yes” to that Friday. But supporters failed to muster the supermajority vote required to send the question to voters.

Voting in Oregon could get even easier -- and cheaper. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would require the state to pay the postage when voters return their ballots through the mail.

Three-strikes offenders serving life in prison without the possibility of parole should get a “second look.” That’s the position of Washington’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said an investigation into the early release of nearly 3,000 Washington prison inmates should be finished soon. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans got an update from their investigator on a separate inquiry underway.

A new rule that lets transgender people in Washington choose whether to use the men’s or women’s facilities will stand -- for now. The state Senate Wednesday afternoon narrowly defeated an effort to repeal the rule.

In 2005, Washington state set a goal: Cut homelessness statewide by 50 percent by 2015. Ten years later the results are in and they’re far short of the target. Homelessness was reduced by only 22.5 percent statewide.

Some people ride the bus to work. Some rent a bus to party on. So-called party buses have been in the news a lot in recent years because of accidents and deaths across the country.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has cancelled a series of regularly scheduled meetings with the Republican leader of the state Senate. The move follows Friday’s surprise vote by Senate Republicans to oust Inslee’s Secretary of Transportation.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took the gloves off Monday and launched a full-throated attack on Senate Republicans for sacking his Secretary of Transportation in a surprise move last Friday afternoon. 

Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson is out of a job. The Republican-led Washington Senate voted Friday afternoon not to confirm Peterson three years after she was appointed by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.

According to the Washington Department of Licensing, 380,000 drivers have suspended licenses. Many of them are low-income and lost their license because they failed to pay traffic tickets. They often have unpaid tickets from several jurisdictions and they’re likely to drive even without a license.

Two of the three brothers accused in last week’s fatal shooting at a Seattle homeless encampment have juvenile records. But neither qualified for supervised parole after they were released from juvenile lock-up.

You’ve heard of sex offender registries. The state of Washington also has a registry for people convicted of gun-related felonies. But it’s hardly used.

Schools shooters often threaten violence before they act. But according to an FBI guide to school shootings, students who hear these threats rarely tell an adult.

Washington prison officials have said a computer programming error led to the accidental early release of more than 3,000 inmates over 13 years. Documents obtained by public radio reveal that a decade ago sentencing calculation errors plagued a major IT upgrade.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said he’s “undaunted” after a partisan dust up over school funding. The Democrat Thursday sounded a hopeful note that lawmakers will find common ground.

Allowing transgender people access to the restroom or locker room of their choice stirs strong feelings. Advocates on both sides of that debate packed a hearing room in Olympia Wednesday.

The Washington Department of Corrections has finished re-calculating the sentences of 1,500 inmates who were potentially released early since 2011. Of those, more than 100 must return to prison to finish their sentences.

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen has removed state Senator Pam Roach from a task force on human trafficking. Owen said Monday he took the action after receiving several complaints about the senator’s conduct at a December meeting of the task force.

Working in a prison is a dangerous job. Inmates outnumber officers and fights are common. Fourteen-year veteran correctional officer Patrick McPherson said over the course of his career he’s been assaulted four or five times.

The Washington House has pledged to take action next year to end the reliance on local levies to fund schools. The vote Monday also directs the 2017 legislature to fully fund competitive salaries and benefits for teachers and staff.

Is the tax on legal marijuana in Washington too high?

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will formally acknowledge Friday that it violated the constitutional rights of two brothers who commercially fished the Columbia River.

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