Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from 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 found online and heard on-air 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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The call of the open road beckons to electric car owners now that Washington and Oregon have completed their portions of the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of rapid recharging stations to enable long distance electric-powered travel.

There's money in a state highway budget that passed the Washington House Thursday to study a one-of-a-kind possible toll bridge fashioned out of retired Navy aircraft carriers.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers in the Washington legislature launched a move Tuesday to ban powdered alcohol.

According to the monthly update released Wednesday by Washington's Employment Security Department, the state’s unemployment rate stayed flat in February.

Some legislators in Olympia say they're having second thoughts about exempting Western Hockey League teams from state labor laws.

The daffodils and tulips are up and so are hungry black bears. Our unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

Oregon and Washington lawmakers flinched within hours of each other Wednesday when it came to toughening mandatory vaccination requirements for schoolchildren.

A new statistic from Washington state illustrates a problem 911 dispatch centers throughout the Northwest grapple with. About a third of 911 calls in Washington state are mistaken.

Michael Kauffmann

Thousands of people are expected to start long-distance treks on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

That's inspired in part by the successful movie adaptation of Portland writer Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir, "Wild." Hollywood’s next hiking movie, “A Walk in the Woods," could spur even more backpacking interest when it's released later this year.

That has Western outdoors enthusiasts backing the build-out of additional long-distance trails, which could offer greater solitude.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 

The congressional wrangling over immigration policy, which threatens to cut off Homeland Security money later this week, is spilling over to the Washington state Capitol in a fashion.

In Olympia, state representatives may take a preliminary vote Wednesday morning on a measure that would direct local police and jails to stop coordinating with federal agencies on immigrant deportations.

Tom Banse

New ownership is giving new hope to a decrepit, unseaworthy fishing boat with a notable literary pedigree. Northwest shipwrights will be hired to restore the Western Flyer, the vessel made famous by the author John Steinbeck.

Tradnor / Wikimedia

 

 

In Olympia, legislative budget writers got a shot of good news Friday regarding tax collections.

Washington's chief economist said about $274 million more than previously projected should flow into the state treasury from now through 2017. A strong economic recovery gets credit. This prompted a reaction from the legislature's lead budget writers.

Paul Eggert / Wikimedia Commons

The sun rose and then quickly set again on a proposal by some state legislators to abolish daylight saving time in Washington state.

Constituent complaints about disrupted sleep and the hassle of changing clocks prompted legislation in both Oregon and Washington.

Staying on Pacific Standard Time year-round would avoid the twice-yearly ritual. But it raises complications if other states keep springing forward, said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, at a committee hearing on Thursday.

WSDOT

 

Bertha has reached her goal.

The cutterhead on Seattle's troubled tunnel machine broke through the 20-foot-thick wall of a rescue pit at about noon on Thursday. Video from a television helicopter showed a big plume of dust coming from inside the pit as the machine emerges.

Alliance Defending Freedom

 

 

A judge in Benton County, Washington has ruled that a flower shop in the Tri-Cities broke the law when it refused to serve a gay couple planning a wedding two years ago.

The judge said Barronelle Stutzman broke state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. In 2013, she told Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed she couldn't do the flower arrangements for their wedding because of her religious convictions against same-sex marriage.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Legislative moves to limit school immunization exemptions are drawing vocal opposition from some parents. Opponents of mandatory vaccination crowded a public hearing at the state capitol in Olympia Tuesday, and the scene could repeat itself in Salem Wednesday.

A bill in the Washington legislature would no longer allow schoolchildren to skip vaccinations on personal or philosophical grounds. Religious and medical exemptions would remain.

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons

 

The worsening labor dispute at West Coast container ports is causing shippers to search for alternate pathways to and from Asia.

An obvious place to look is the thriving port in Vancouver, B.C., but officials there say they can't absorb much diverted traffic.

Titleist46 / Flickr

 

Eleven packs of wolves have recolonized northeastern Washington. Now besieged politicians from that area are seriously proposing to relocate some of those protected wolves to western and southwestern Washington where there are none.

Tom Banse

 

Have electric cars been on the market long enough to stand on their own without public subsidies?

That's a question state lawmakers in Olympia and Salem are wrestling with this winter.

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo

 

The Washington state Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to make hemp farming legal. The measure now goes to the state House for further consideration.

State Sen. Brian Hatfield said the plant cousin of marijuana has "tremendous potential" as a crop.

Paul Eggert / Wikimedia Commons

 

Some Washington and Oregon legislators want to end the yearly practice of springing forward and falling back.

A state senator from Oregon and a state representative from Washington both say they were moved into action by complaints from annoyed constituents. Republican Rep. Elizabeth Scott presented a long list to a house committee in Olympia on Tuesday.

Stephan Röhl

Sometimes it's a vengeful ex-lover; sometimes a thief or a hacker is behind it. Either way, explicit, private photos of people keep getting out on the Internet.

A woman from Seattle said she was mortified just over a year ago to discover naked pictures of herself posted to a "revenge porn" website. Kim asked that her last name not be used during testimony to a Washington state Senate committee Monday.

Tom Banse

 

It's been a tough winter so far for many Cascade Mountains ski resorts. Five in Oregon and Washington have suspended operations until they get more snow.

Workers at the Summit at Snoqualmie are even gathering snow from parking lots and building edges and moving it uphill to keep a few runs open.

Oregon could leapfrog Washington to have the highest state minimum wage in the country if the Democratically-controlled legislature approves a proposed increase.

The steep drop in oil prices is helping to pad the bottom line of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines. But don't expect lower fares on the horizon.

The Washington and Oregon employment departments have closed the book on 2014 with the release of their December jobs numbers.

Sales of small, camera-equipped drones are soaring. Aside from air safety issues, these remotely-piloted aircraft can raise privacy concerns if they fly uninvited over your backyard or past your bedroom windows.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

 

In the years before Washington and Oregon legalized recreational pot for adults, thousands of people were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Now Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to make it simple to expunge that crime, which is no longer a crime, from a person's record. The same issue could also come up in Oregon as the legislature examines implementation of its voter-approved legalization measure.

Tom Banse

Up and down the West Coast, there are beach towns where it would be challenging to escape a tsunami.

That's because high ground is out of reach assuming the roads are buckled or jammed after a great earthquake. Now one low-lying Washington coastal town in that predicament is doing something about it.

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo

Hemp advocates have launched a renewed bid to make hemp farming lawful in Washington state.

The non-drug variety of the cannabis plant has already been legalized in Oregon and California, but it is not commercially grown there yet.

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