Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out-of-the-way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

Ways to Connect

The statewide unemployment rate in Washington again touched a record low of 4.5 percent in October. That's according to the Washington Employment Security Department, which has been tracking the number since the mid-1970s.

Tough new laws against handling a cell phone behind the wheel  took effect in Washington and Oregon this year. Each state’s legislature made it illegal to drive while holding an electronic device for most any reason.

Voters in Gearhart, Oregon, sent a decisive message this week about limiting vacation rentals in neighborhoods. The Oregon beach town is the first Northwest place to hold a vote of the people on an issue that's cropping up in city councils across the region.

The rare but ever-present risk of a tsunami has worried people along the Pacific Northwest coast for years. Different communities are working on moving critical facilities to higher ground.

Public Disclosure Commission

We've heard a lot about potential Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election. Now there's concern about shadowy online electioneering filtering down to the state and local level. This comes in the aftermath of a high-stakes state Senate race in Western Washington.

Earlier this year, a gray whale calf died after getting tangled in crab pot lines near Seaview, Washington. Now commercial and tribal crab fishermen from the Washington coast have agreed to form a working group to discuss how to reduce the risk of a repeat.

CORY SHARP/HEMPLOGIC

A saga involving a Northwest hemp fashion company in search of a bank has been resolved. But the ordeal points to the murky legal landscape facing some cannabis-related businesses.

After two rescinded business accounts and a bank's change of heart, hemp clothing and accessories retailer Rawganique is back where it started.

More than 30 times this year, the federal government has received reports of whales tangled in fishing gear along the West Coast. Sometimes the whales manage to wriggle free. Other times they don't, and you see heart-rending pictures on the news or a rescue mission.

Democratic politicians from the Pacific Northwest are up in arms over a proposal to dramatically increase entrance fees at popular national parks next year.

This story has been updated.

Since recreational marijuana became legal in Washington state and Oregon, the booming industry has been having having trouble accessing the banking system. And now a hemp fashion retailer in Blaine, Washington, is having the same problem.

Amanda Gladics / Oregon State University

When commercial fishermen spool out long lines in pursuit of sablefish— better known to consumers as black cod—seabirds looking for an easy meal dive to steal the bait off the series of hooks.

From Ashland to Whistler, Northwest cities large and small are grappling with whether and how to regulate short term rentals of accommodations. Concern about rowdy behavior or preserving housing stock for workers motivates regulation.

More people than ever—1.2 million in Washington state and more than 570,000 in Oregon—are registered to participate in the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake and tsunami drill Thursday morning.


Not coincidentally, a Washington state agency is using this week to highlight how the Evergreen State needs to play catch up with neighboring states on earthquake preparedness.

Self-driving cars would one day take over Interstate 5 to the exclusion of human drivers under a proposal aired out before Washington state transportation advisors Tuesday.

Oregon farmers planted the state’s first legal crops of industrial hemp a couple of years ago. Now the first Washington state farmer to plant the non-drug cousin of marijuana has harvested the crop. 


Hemp entrepreneur Cory Sharp is fairly happy with Washington’s first legal crop in almost 90 years. His farmer partners harvested 105 acres earlier this month from irrigated fields near Moses Lake. 


But the celebration is tempered because the crop is unsold.


The Oregon and Washington Cascades are getting their first significant snowfall of the season at mountain pass level Thursday. It's a possible harbinger of a cool and snowy winter.

TOM BANSE / NORTHWEST NEWS NETWORK

History buffs, politicians and park rangers gathered Friday, Oct. 6, to celebrate the restoration of an often overlooked historic site in the Washington State Park system. 

Scientists in Oregon and Washington are noticing a disruptive ocean phenomenon is becoming more frequent and extreme. It involves a suffocating ribbon of low oxygen seawater over our continental shelf.

The Seattle area has given birth to aviation icons such as the Boeing 747 jumbo jet and carbon fiber 787 Dreamliner. Could a low-emissions electric jet someday join that hall of fame?

On Thursday, Kirkland, Washington-based startup Zunum Aero unveiled the specs for a hybrid electric jet.

Some insurance companies are choosing not to renew policies in wildfire-prone areas of the inland Northwest. That’s sending home owners scrambling to find new coverage for their properties.

Some very special search dogs have been getting a workout in the Northwest. They’re trained to sniff out the remains of people buried as long as 9,000 years ago. This past week, their assignment was to find burials from the early Oregon Trail days.

In 2016, the state of Washington made it legal for people to pick up dead deer and elk on the road and take them home. Roadkill salvage has turned out to be a popular thing to do—and it's coming soon to Oregon.

Competition for your garbage is increasingly fierce. It's become an important, if mostly hidden, industry in the Columbia River Gorge.

In a sign that the wildfire threat is receding, hundreds of Washington National Guard soldiers are being demobilized and sent home over the next 48 hours. They were activated to help fight wildfires earlier this month.

The Oregon and Washington Secretaries of State announced Friday that they have referred dozens of cases of double-voting or dead people voting in the last presidential election for possible criminal prosecution.

Intelligence experts say North Korea is several years or more away from having the capability to threaten the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear missile. But recent sabre rattling was enough to make Washington state senators hold a hearing Wednesday about preparedness.

Big names in Northwest business are coming together to deepen the financing pool for the next great tech startups. Microsoft and Madrona Venture Group want to integrate the venture capital communities of Seattle and Vancouver, BC.

One of Boeing Defense subsidiary Insitu's 45-pound high-tech unmanned aircraft joined the fight against the Eagle Creek fire this weekend.

The Eagle Creek fire has littered a section of Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge with fallen trees and rocks and there are scores more hazard trees that should be cut. 

Oregon's Department of Transportation says will the freeway will stay closed at least through the weekend—possibly longer.

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