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.

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Washington's governor is ruling out a direct public subsidy to save the jobs of hundreds of workers at the Northwest's last operational aluminum smelters. But other forms of support such as retraining assistance remain under consideration.

The state of Idaho is moving to ban powdered alcohol before it ever appears on store shelves. Oregon and Washington did the same last year.

Some Democrats in the Washington House want the state to take a look at what it could do to cut back on light pollution.

Education funding was front and center Monday as the Idaho and Washington state legislatures convened for their 2016 sessions.

The Department of Homeland Security Friday extended its deadline for non-compliant states to raise ID card standards. That means a regular driver's license issued by Idaho, Oregon or Washington state will be acceptable identification to board an airplane for at least another two years.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter said he has received reassurances from the federal government about the adequacy of vetting of refugees from the war-torn Middle East.

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter spoke forcefully about observing the “rule of law” in his first comments on the armed protesters in adjacent eastern Oregon.

The fast expansion and spectacular meltdown of the Haggen grocery chain has left thousands of people in the Northwest with fewer places to buy their groceries. Safeway even got a monopoly as the only large supermarket in a whole county of eastern Oregon.

MathTeacherGuy / flickr

With the start of a new year comes an increase in health care costs for many local employers and workers. The average increase for 2016 health plan premiums reviewed by the state insurance departments of Oregon, Washington and Idaho significantly exceeded the rate of inflation. So, what's driving health care costs in 2016?

The national debate about whether or not to welcome refugees from the war-torn Middle East was hashed out again in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. In Twin Falls, Idaho, conservative activists are not just talking about the issue, they're taking action.

Making school buildings strong enough to withstand a major earthquake is one of the highest priorities for emergency planners on the West Coast. Washington state is taking small steps to identify the most vulnerable schools, while Oregon is actually spending to fix things.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul Allen's company Vulcan Inc. are teaming up to stage a $40 million to $50 million winner-take-all competition. The prize will go to the "mid-sized" American city that comes up with the best plan to use technology of any sort to improve mobility and reduce pollution. 

Wouldn't it be nice to get a check from your electric utility instead of a bill? That's exactly what happens for a select few homeowners in the Pacific Northwest whose solar-powered houses generate more electricity than they use over the course of the year.

You may remember the good old days when a domestic airline seat came with free checked bags and a meal. Now just about all coach passengers have to pay for those things. Next year, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will join competitors in offering a "premium economy" class with more legroom for a fee.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of marijuana have risen sharply since Washington voters legalized recreational pot in 2012.

If you watch sports on TV, you can't miss the barrage of advertising for fantasy sports websites. Washington and Montana are two of only six states that keep out fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

The preliminary investigation of a deadly wildfire in August gives a detailed account of how three Forest Service firefighters met their deaths near Twisp, Washington.

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee is moving ahead with a plan to limit greenhouse gas pollution from the state's largest industrial sources.

Food scientists at Washington State University have an unusual new partner to help them evaluate drinks, medicines and sweeteners. It's called the "electronic tongue.”

A South Puget Sound tribe is planning a grand opening at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday for what it believes is the nation's first marijuana store on a reservation.

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

Bellingham, Washington-based Haggen mushroomed in size at the beginning of 2015 by acquiring 146 grocery stores across the West from Boise-based Albertsons and Safeway. Those two chains had to unload stores to gain federal approval to merge.

If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come. Many institutions of higher learning around the Northwest are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.

Phyllis Fletcher / Northwest News Network

By a wide margin, Washington voters have banned under state law the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns and certain other endangered wildlife parts. Initiative 1401 is passing with more than 70 percent of the vote in favor statewide.

Billionaire Paul Allen bankrolled the measure to expand and toughen state penalties for animal trafficking on top of the federal laws and international treaties that already ban imports of endangered wildlife. The president of Allen's company Vulcan Inc. is Barb Bennett. She thanked Washington voters on his behalf at a victory party Tuesday night.

"Ride the Ducks" amphibious tours in Seattle will remain suspended until at least January of next year. That was the bottom line from an update about the ongoing investigation of the tour company involved in a deadly crash on Seattle's Aurora Bridge.

Thousands of federal inmates were sent home Friday after their drug sentences were shortened. That includes dozens of convicts from the Northwest.

Supporters of a citizens’ initiative to create a new tax on carbon emissions in Washington state have delivered most of the petition signatures they need to put their issue before the legislature -- and then on the 2016 ballot.

The Boeing Company's unmanned aircraft subsidiary based in the Columbia River Gorge passed a milestone this week in commercializing drone technology.

According to an industry trade group, sales of alternatives to modern wheat are growing at double-digit annual rates.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has fallen to worst among the U.S. mainline carriers for mishandled bags. Fortunately for Northwest travelers, the unhappy distinction may be short-lived.

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