Austin Jenkins

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. His 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. Austin is the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Washington State Association for Justice.

As teachers in a record number of Washington school districts strike this week, a top official with their union says the unwillingness of superintendents and school boards to negotiate higher pay raises for teachers is a crime. 

"It's wage theft," said Stephen Miller, vice president of the Washington Education Association (WEA), Thursday in an interview on TVW's "Inside Olympia" program. "They are taking wages away from public employees."

On a recent evening in Vancouver, Washington, more than 80 people gathered at the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They were there for a forum organized by a fledging group of moms whose severely mentally ill children have struggled to get the help they need in Washington state — sometimes with deadly consequences.

“We are all part of a tribe that we have joined whether we wanted to or not,” mother Jerri Clark told the packed room.

Washington state Rep. Matt Manweller “engaged in a pattern of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior” with current and former female students at Central Washington University (CWU) over a 13-year period, according to an 85-page investigative report released by the university on Wednesday.

A Republican state representative from eastern Washington is drawing attention after comments he made about the media at a pro-gun rally over the weekend. 

At the "Liberty or Death" event on Saturday in Spokane, Republican Matt Shea of Spokane Valley, who's currently seeking a sixth term in office, said "a lot of people in the media" are guilty of smear campaigns, innuendo and implication.

"And I want to tell you something about that," Shea told the crowd. "We can't become those dirty, godless, hateful people. We have to uphold free speech no matter what." 

For years, mentally ill inmates in this state have languished in county jails awaiting state evaluations to determine if they're competent to stand trial.

But according to a legal settlement announced this Thursday, people with mental illness who are caught up in Washington state’s criminal justice system would get more services.

In cases when inmates are found not competent, they often wait weeks or months more to get a bed at a state hospital.

Central Washington University on Tuesday fired Republican state Rep. Matt Manweller from his position as a tenured professor of political science following a months-long investigation into his conduct toward students. 

Washington Republicans are regrouping after a primary election pounding Tuesday that extended beyond swing districts to rock-ribbed GOP pockets of the state.

Embattled Democratic state Rep. David Sawyer of Tacoma was in third place in early primary returns Tuesday night, an indication of the political fallout he’s facing over numerous allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women and an investigation that found he violated House harassment policy. 

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state in 2012 resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of people sentenced for marijuana-related felonies, according to an analysis conducted for public radio by the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council.

The past eight months have been a whirlwind of victories for Tarra Simmons—an honors law school graduate with a criminal past.

In response to the #MeToo movement, the Washington state Senate will create a new human resources officer position to investigate complaints of harassment and other workplace misconduct, replacing a previous system of “facilitators” who served as a go-to resource for victims.

It’s the agony of modern day parents: how to find and afford decent child care. This has become such a problem, the Washington Legislature has created a task force to tackle the issue.

This week is the deadline for initiative backers in Washington and Oregon to submit their petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.

Calling former Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley "as unrepentant as any defendant in memory," federal prosecutors are asking that a judge sentence him to more than seven years in federal prison when he is sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

The pastor of the Oakville, Washington Assembly of God church said he was trying to protect his family and the public when he drew his concealed pistol and shot a gunman on Father’s Day.

David George cried at times as he spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since the shooting.

What caused 44-year-old Tim Day to go on a carjacking and shooting spree on Father’s Day that left one man critically wounded?

This post has been updated.

A shooting spree in Tumwater, Washington, ended in a sun-drenched Walmart parking lot when a civilian shot the suspected gunman to death, police said Sunday evening.

Three people were hurt: a teenage boy with minor injuries, another person with minor injuries, and a man who was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is now in critical condition, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.

What should a 21st century public school system look like? Washington’s superintendent of public instruction says it’s time to have that conversation now that the state’s decade-long school funding legal fight is over.

Washington House leaders are recommending that state Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, lose his chairmanship, but are not demanding he resign from the Legislature, following the findings of an external investigation into his conduct that could also result in an ethics probe.

The Washington Supreme Court has ended the decade-old school funding case known as McCleary. The high court issued an order Thursday that said the state has complied with the mandate to fully fund its new system of basic education by September of this year.

Two candidates for the Washington Supreme Court have been disqualified from appearing on the November ballot.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing Facebook and Google for campaign finance violations. The lawsuits filed Monday allege the companies failed to keep records about who purchased political advertising from them.


In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff dead, the state of Washington established a “work group” on mass shootings. It will hold its third meeting on Tuesday.

Democratic state Rep. Timm Ormsby of Spokane, the chief budget writer in the Washington House of Representatives, has pleaded guilty to reckless driving. Ormsby was facing a possible drunk driving conviction after he rolled his jeep in February.






Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital is no longer in immediate jeopardy of losing federal funding.

Federal inspectors have found serious safety violations at Western State Hospital that could increase the chances of patient suicides. The finding this week has the potential to further imperil $65 million in annual federal funding the state receives to operate the 857-bed psychiatric hospital near Tacoma.

Former Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley rejected a pair of plea offers from federal prosecutors that would have allowed him to avoid a second trial and his ultimate conviction on multiple felony counts related to his past business practices.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is headed to Iowa--a frequent first stop for presidential hopefuls.

One night about a year ago, the lights in Brian's Tacoma apartment suddenly went out. He was in his bedroom. When he walked out to see what had happened, he said he found his adult daughter who lived with him had stuck a bread knife into an electrical outlet.

The stories of patients and their families are critical to learning more about how state government operates and how our mental health system is functioning. They also shed light on personal struggles with mental health and fight the stigma attached to psychiatric disorders.

The state is currently trying to reshape the hospital and improve our long-struggling mental health system. The issue will likely be at the forefront of the Legislature's 2019 session, which begins in January.

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