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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Opponents of Initiative 1366, a tax-limiting measure passed by Washington voters on November 3, said they will try to get an injunction to keep the new law from taking effect. That announcement Thursday comes as the Washington Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that allowed the measure to remain on the ballot.

Prosecutors in Washington state want voters to decide in 2016 whether to keep or repeal the death penalty. It’s been 40 years since Washington voters last weighed-in on the death penalty. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the time has come for voters to have another say on the subject.

A Washington state senator says he will try again in January to convince his colleagues to ban marine mammal shows. That announcement Monday came as SeaWorld said it will end orca whale performances at its San Diego theme park next year.

Washington is unlikely to meet a January deadline to provide jail inmates with court-ordered mental health services within seven days.

A staffing shortage at Western State Hospital has created a crisis situation. Federal inspectors this week determined that patients and staff face immediate risk for harm.

There’s a surprise newcomer to the campaign for a higher minimum wage in Washington. It’s the state’s restaurant association.

Washington voters appear to have given the thumbs up to another Tim Eyman tax-limiting measure. But the courts could get the final say.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington voters are showing once again that they like the idea of a two-thirds requirement for tax hikes. In early returns, Initiative 1366 was passing with 54 percent of the vote.

Alcoa’s decision to idle two aluminum plants in Washington comes just months after state lawmakers renewed tax breaks for the company.

The attorney for indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley wants some of the charges against his client dropped. Attorney Angelo Calfo is also petitioning a judge to break apart the criminal indictment into separate trials.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island is home to 252 sex offenders. These are men -- and one woman -- who’ve completed their prison sentences but are deemed too dangerous to release. The state is supposed to offer treatment to all of them so they can have the chance to get out. But advocates say a group of disabled residents are languishing in unconstitutional conditions that give them little hope of ever leaving the island.

Judge Ronald Leighton took federal prosecutors to task this week, saying they may have overreached when they seized nearly $1 million from indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley in September.

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Payouts on lawsuits and other legal claims cost Washington taxpayers nearly $60 million in fiscal year 2015. That’s according to a state report issued Thursday.

Andrew Holmes, a former soldier from Boise, is speaking out about his war crimes and his time in prison. He was the youngest member of what came to be known as the “kill team” from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The Washington State Patrol is reminding drivers to move over -- or at least slow down -- when approaching an emergency vehicle that’s stopped with its lights flashing. The Patrol will begin a three-day crackdown Tuesday on drivers who don’t give troopers some space.

Consultants leading a study on why dozens of troopers have recently left the Washington State Patrol warned Thursday that the agency is in “dire straits.”

The Washington State Patrol is recruiting. But in this case it’s not for troopers. It’s for military veterans who applied to be troopers and weren’t hired.

Two years ago, Washington lawmakers created a registry for individuals convicted of a gun-related felony. The law was sold as a way to improve police officer safety by creating a database just for them.

The state of Washington has issued workplace safety fines in a bridge demolition accident that killed a couple and their infant son. The fines announced Monday target four construction contractors.

The latest Elway Poll released Monday showed Initiative 1366, a tax-limiting measure on Washington’s November ballot, is tied. Sixteen percent of Washington voters said they’re still not sure how they’ll vote.

Washington Republicans have been talking about impeaching indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley. But now one of Kelley’s fellow Democrats says it’s time to proceed.

Note: This story is an update to a story first reported in 2012 in collaboration with the Seattle Times.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines were given “other than honorable” discharges from the military. Now, one soldier from Salem, Oregon, has learned his discharge will be upgraded.

Wealthy donors helped get Initiative 1366 on the ballot. Now Washington voters will decide whether to approve Tim Eyman’s latest effort to require a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a vote of the people for tax hikes.

Money is pouring into a highly competitive special election to fill an open seat in the Washington state House. But tracing where that money comes from is no easy task.

The Washington State Patrol has a warning for drivers: it’s now illegal to have an open container of marijuana in the passenger compartments of vehicles.

Washington State House of Representatives

Most voters in Washington should have their November ballots in hand by the end of this week. It’s an off election year. But there’s one hot legislative race that has implications for future control of the Washington state House.

The license application window opens Monday for medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state that want to continue to operate.

The race is on to replace indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley. Republican state Senator Mark Miloscia announced Thursday he will campaign for the seat in 2016.

Poor and minority students in Washington state are more likely to be labeled truants. That’s a according to the state’s 2015 Truancy Report out Wednesday.

Washington Lt. Governor Brad Owen hasn’t announced if he intends to seek a sixth-term next year. But he already faces challenges from two fellow Democrats who are betting he won’t run.

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