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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OLYMPIA, Wash. – A follow-up now to a story we first brought you in December. It was about the default of an under-performing hockey and concert arena in Wenatchee . Governor Chris Gregoire recently signed into law a rescue plan for that project. The new law also aims to prevent future municipal defaults.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Republican caucuses over the weekend gave Mitt Romney a boost going into Super Tuesday. The straw poll was non-binding, but it still attracted robust turnout from Republicans. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this wrap up from both sides of the Cascades.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - It's been a day of high drama in the Washington state Senate. Republicans took control of the chamber with the help of three Democratic colleagues.

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G.O.P. presidential candidates are looking for a boost from Washington’s caucuses this Saturday. It’s the last contest before Super Tuesday. But as one longtime party insider cautions, there won’t be any real winner this weekend.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – An insider’s game. That’s how open government advocates describe the Washington legislature as it heads into its final days. They complain of last minute public hearings, so-called “ghost bills” with only a title and no details, and quick votes on deals negotiated behind-the-scenes. These shortcuts save time. But critics say they effectively shut the public out of the process.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers are hurtling toward a deadline to adjourn next Thursday. Majority Democrats still have to agree on a plan to re-balance the state budget. Tuesday, Senate Democrats unveiled a blueprint that includes a controversial move: paying a couple of bills a day late.

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In the Washington state Senate, a short-lived era of bipartisan cooperation on the budget appears over. Majority Democrats Tuesday will unveil their plan to rebalance the budget. But Republican leaders say they won’t be there.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington voters consistently send Democratic majorities to the statehouse. But four times over the past 20 years they’ve also voted to require a supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes. Most recently, in 2010. Now a group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies are challenging the constitutionality of that two-thirds rule. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 9th. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins previews the case.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he opposes gay marriage, but is comfortable letting voters decide the issue for their own state. Gingrich made his comments Friday during a visit to the Washington capitol. It’s the second time in two weeks a Republican presidential candidate has campaigned under the dome.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – A bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers wants JPMorgan Chase to lower the ATM fee it charges cash welfare recipients. Currently these low- income clients pay 85-cents each time they withdraw cash. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports on how the fees add up.

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WaOLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington legislature has three weeks to rebalance the state budget. One way House Democrats propose to do that is to eliminate a series of payments that currently go to cities and counties. That proposal emerged Tuesday. Reaction from local governments was swift.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Majority Democrats in the Washington state House have unveiled a plan to rebalance the state’s budget. The spending blueprint released Tuesday does not call for a general tax increase. But it would delay a massive payment to public schools. It also relies on savings from reduced demand for state services.

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MarriAs promised, gay rights activists have posted the names and addresses of more than 100,000 Washington voters in an online searchable database. These voters signed petitions in 2009 to repeal Washington’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Slightly up. That’s the upshot of Thursday’s Washington revenue forecast. This is the quarterly report that tells budget writers how much money they have to work with. Steve Lerch is Washington’s interim economic forecaster. He told a panel of lawmakers they can expect $96 million more than they expected to balance the budget. Lerch said Washington’s recovery continues, but it’s slow.

Photo credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

BalaOLYMPIA, Wash. – Democrats in the Washington legislature are suddenly hopeful they can rebalance the state budget without asking voters to approve a tax hike. Their optimism comes even before they see the latest revenue forecast out Thursday.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington state senate has approved a new four-tier teacher evaluation system. The bill that passed Tuesday also creates a mechanism for firing under-performing teachers who don’t improve.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the words of one gay couple: it’s a “pre-Valentine’s Day” gift. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire today signed into law a measure to give same-sex couples the right to marry. The packed and emotional bill-signing took place in a ceremonial room at the statehouse.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay rights supporters will gather Monday in an ornate reception room in the Washington state capitol. They will witness history as Governor Chris Gregoire signs into law legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins looks at how the rhetoric that led to this controversial moment has changed.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – 41 states allow charter schools. But not Washington . Opponents in the legislature recently killed a bipartisan proposal to allow a limited number of under-performing schools to convert. But supporter of the idea haven’t given up. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Now that gay marriage has passed, it’s back to the budget and taxes for Washington lawmakers. The 60-day session is more than halfway over. Next week will bring the February revenue forecast. Then majority Democrats plan to roll out a budget and possible tax hikes.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage supporters are thrilled. Opponents are gearing up for a ballot fight. That’s the dynamic after the Washington House voted Wednesday to send a same-sex marriage bill to the governor. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins watched the historic vote from the House galleries and has reaction.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay marriage isn’t the law in Washington yet. But national opponents are already preparing for a repeal campaign. The Washington House Wednesday is expected to send a same-sex marriage measure to the governor for her signature.

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Wednesday, the Washington state House is expected to send a gay marriage bill to the governor. The final measure will likely contain some special language to address a concern raised by faith-based foster and adoption agencies. These state contractors don’t want to be forced to place children with gay couples. But Washington law already prohibits them from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. So how does that work now? As Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins found out, it’s “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – “Talk therapy” may work in some cases. But a Washington state lawmaker says it’s time to invest in evidence-based programs to treat mentally ill youth. This past fall we brought you a series of stories on failures in how the Northwest treats young people with serious mental health issues. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this update from Olympia.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Out-of-pocket medical expenses are crushing some Washington families – even though they have health insurance. A key legislative committee voted Thursday to place an overall cap on how much a family would have to pay each year.

Photo Credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, WASH. – The battle to allow gay marriage in Washington has cleared a major hurdle. The Washington state Senate voted [last night] Wednesday night to approve same-sex marriage. The vote was 28 to 21. Four Republicans voting with the majority. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins was there for the historic debate.

Photo Credit: Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Four Washington Republicans joined majority Democrats Wednesday night to approve a same-sex marriage bill in the state Senate. The historic vote represents a major step forward for gay rights supporters. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins was there for the debate.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington appears poised to become the seventh state in the nation to allow gay marriage. Backers say they have the votes in the legislature. The law would exempt churches that oppose same-sex marriage. But not wedding-related businesses. Attorney Steve O’Ban highlighted this recently in testimony against the proposed law.

Steve O’Ban: “There’s no protection either for a small businesswoman for example who runs say a photography business or a printing company to decline to photograph or, say, print a wedding announcements for gay weddings, for reasons of faith.”

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The number of people who are out of work in Washington is falling. It’s a sign the economy is recovering – albeit slowly. But it’s only been in the last two months that the government sector has started hiring again. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins profiles one person who lost her state job, but found another one.

Keri-Anne Jetzer’s low point came last year when she lost her job as a researcher for Washington’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Supporters and opponents of gay marriage plan to descend on Washington’s capitol on Monday . That’s when House and Senate committees are scheduled to take public testimony on legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. It now appears sponsors in the state Senate are just one vote shy of passage.

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