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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The US Attorney in Seattle has stepped in to block the release of information about a once-secret program under which fictitious driver licenses were issued by the state of Washington. In a letter to the state, Jenny Durkan’s office says the documents are “classified national security information.”

A hacking incident involving Washington’s court system could affect upwards of a million people. The Administrative Office of the Courts announced that hackers breached its public website sometime last fall or early this year and social security and potentially driver license numbers were accessed.

Washington’s special session begins next Monday. But at this point it seems unlikely House and Senate budget negotiators will be close to a deal. Governor Jay Inslee said both sides agreed Tuesday on some common assumptions about the next two year budget.

Inslee spoke at the end of a bill signing ceremony. For now he’s measuring progress in these budget negotiations by the week, not the day. A budget is made up of hundreds if not thousands of assumptions about how much something will or won’t cost. How much a cut will or won’t save.

In Olympia, May Day protesters faced-off with police in riot gear Wednesday night. But the two sides did not clash. A group of about 50 mostly young people – some of them wearing face masks - marched for more than an hour through the streets of downtown Olympia, disrupting traffic.

A May Day march in Olympia remained peaceful Wednesday. Protesters had planned what they called a “shut down the banks” party.

There were about 60 marchers. Some of them wore bandanas to disguise their identifies, although most went without. They marched through the streets of downtown Olympia and tied up some traffic. They passed by some of the corporate bank branches in downtown Olympia -- Chase, Bank of America, and U.S. Bank. But there was no vandalism or property damage.

In the first three months of this year, lobbyists in Washington state spent more than $200,000 on entertainment. Much of that money was spent to wine and dine state lawmakers during the just-concluded 105-day session. But what are lobbyists and their clients getting in exchange for picking up the tab?

After the legislative day ends up at the Capitol, it’s pretty common for some of the players to decamp. They go to one of a handful of usually higher-end Olympia establishments. This is where – over a meal, perhaps a bottle of Washington wine – the work continues.

Columbia River Crossing

When Washington lawmakers return to Olympia in two weeks for a special session, Governor Jay Inslee is demanding they approve funding for the new Columbia River Crossing. The Democrat wants that funding included in a broader gas tax measure.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The Washington legislature has adjourned after a 105-day session. The final gavels fell just after six o’clock Sunday night.

Owen: “The 2013 regular session of the 63rd legislature is adjourned Sine Die"

But the adjournment won’t last long. Governor Jay Inslee immediately called a special session for two weeks from now because the House and Senate failed to come to agreement on a two-year budget. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will give lawmakers a two week cooling off period before calling them back into special session. That announcement Sunday evening followed the formal adjournment of the regular 105-day session.

An expected special session of the Washington legislature would mean another freeze on political fundraising. State law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting contributions while they are in session. For most members that’s probably not a huge concern since this is an off-election year. But a few legislators will be on this year’s ballot.

The so-called session freeze on fundraising lifts at 12:01am on the day after adjournment. It goes back into effect at 12:01am on the first day of a special session. You can bet candidates will make the most of whatever window they get.

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