Bob Kinzel

Host, Reporter

Bob is a veteran Vermont journalist, specializing in political reporting. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse. Prior to joining VPR full time in 2002, Bob ran the Vermont News Service for 21 years. The service provided daily local news for eleven stations, including VPR. Bob started the News Service following a stint as news director for WNCS.

Ways to Connect

Congress has been unable to agree on the provisions of a new Farm Bill for more than a year.

The Farm Bill, which has passed the Senate and will be taken up by the House of Representatives this month, reduces federal spending on agriculture by $23 billion over the next five years by goal by eliminating most commodity subsidy programs and cutting the Food Stamp program by $4 billion.

Senator Patrick Leahy says the bill includes an important new pricing system for dairy farmers.

Toby Talbot / AP

Fri 6/07/13 Noon & 7 pm Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy had an outsize role in shaping the compromise immigration bill which made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Attention now turns to Vermont's other senator. Will Bernie Sanders support this immigration reform bill even though he has expressed doubts about the guest worker provisions?

Congress has not given its approval to a new Farm Bill for almost a year because of major differences between the House and the Senate.

Senator Patrick Leahy says the new bill includes key changes to the dairy pricing program. The plan creates a system where farmers can purchase special insurance to stabilize milk prices whenever market forces drive these prices down

Senator Patrick Leahy
AP/Toby Talbot

It was disclosed this week, that over the last few years, the Administration secretly obtained phone records of millions of people from Verizon by using an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Administration says the procedure is “a vital tool” in the war against terrorism.

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and has voted against extending the Patriot Act because of concerns about a lack of oversight protections in the law. Leahy says the new disclosure is a confirmation of his concerns.

The Vermont Bar Association is hosting a public conference on Saturday about civility in politics. Jim Leach will be the keynote speaker. He's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former congressman from Iowa. He spoke with Vermont Edition about the coarseness of political discourse.

AP/Toby Talbot

Fri 5/31/13 Noon & 7PM. Vermont may have been physically far-removed from the battles of the Civil War, but towns across the state felt the war’s impact locally through soldiers who served in it, and the civilians who volunteered support.

Officials at a newly formed Health Care Cooperative say state regulators deliberately used inaccurate information to reject the group’s license application.

Under the Affordable Care Act, federal loan money is available to help create member owned health care organizations. These new companies would be allowed to sell insurance policies on new state Exchanges beginning in January.

After fighting about this issue in the final days of the session, the two sides did agree to work together over the summer but some major disagreements have emerged right at the start.

The two sides do agree on one thing. To determine a person’s tax burden, they want to shift from using an individual’s “taxable income,” to what’s known as “adjusted gross income.” This number is larger because it comes before applying a series of deductions. 

If you use this “adjusted gross” number, and most states do, you can lower the tax rate without changing a person’s tax burden.

According to former Governor Jim Douglas, the Republican Party has two paths it can follow in the future.

One is to promote a narrow group of issues based on a strict ideological and inflexible point of view. The other is to become a “big tent” Party that allows its members to have different positions on a number of controversial social issues such as same sex marriage and abortion.

Douglas says it is now clear that the inflexible approach, as promoted by many local Tea Party groups, is not the path that the GOP should pursue in the future.

Pete Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau talks with VPR's Bob Kinzel about the future of the Republican Party in Vermont and the steps to end the division on issues.

Fri 5/21/13 Noon & 7PM How can the Republican Party connect with mainstream America? Former Governor Jim Douglas talks with Bob Kinzel about the future of Vermont's GOP. We'll also hear from Pete Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau.

Senator Patrick Leahy
AP/Toby Talbot

Senator Patrick Leahy has decided not to include an amendment providing rights to same sex couples in the immigration reform bill because he’s concerned that it could cause a number of senators to vote against the overall legislation.

Over the course of the last three weeks, the Senate Judiciary committee considered hundreds of amendments to an immigration reform bill.

The State of Vermont says a newly formed Health Care Cooperative has serious financial problems and should not be given a license to offer insurance policies beginning next year. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, member owned Cooperatives can be licensed to sell health insurance policies on a state exchange beginning in 2014. To do so, they must receive both federal and state approval.

Congressman Peter Welch is urging members of Congress to remember the lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before sending military supplies to opposition forces in Syria.

Earlier this month, Welch was part of a Congressional oversight mission that traveled to a number of countries in the Middle East.

He says seeing almost half a million refugees at a camp along the Turkish – Syrian border was a sobering experience that highlighted the limits of what the United States can do in this conflict.

Senator Patrick Leahy’s plan to strengthen an investment visa program has been added to the massive immigration reform bill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee.

The committee is in the process of reviewing hundreds of amendments to the bill. Leahy serves as the chairman of the panel.

The EB-5 visa program grants green cards to foreign businesspeople and their families in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a sanctioned economic development project.

As part of the agreement, it must also create at least ten new jobs.

AP/Toby Talbot

Fri 5/17/13 Noon & 7PM The Legislature adjourned late Wednesday night after finalizing the budget, and passing controversial bills on marijuana decriminalization, end of life care, and drivers licenses for non-citizens. There were quite a few proposals left on the table, however. VTDigger's Anne Galloway, Pete Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau and VPR's John Dillon join Bob Kinzel to look back at 2013's legislative session.

Senator Patrick Leahy is optimistic that a new Farm Bill, one that makes big changes in national dairy policies, will win broad bi-partisan support in the Senate. However, the outlook in the House is less certain.

For months, there’s been no Farm Bill in place because of major differences between the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Now, there’s a new effort in Congress to pass this legislation.

By a vote of 15 to 5, the Senate Agriculture committee has given its approval to a bill that restructures current dairy policies.

AP/Toby Talbot

At a little after 10:20 Tuesday night, House Speaker Shap Smith brought the gavel down on the 2013 Legislative session.

It was a session that was dominated by money issues. The budget was tight and lawmakers rejected Governor Peter Shumlin’s plan to increase spending on child care services by taking money from the state’s earned income tax credit program.

AP/Toby Talbot

High on the list of “must-pass” bills as the Legislature inched toward adjournment on Tuesday was a plan to finance Vermont’s new health care exchange beginning in January 2015. The estimated annual cost is $18 million.

When the exchange goes into place, it will be financed initially by a continuation of the current assessment on employers that don’t offer coverage to their employees. That assessment is roughly $400 a year for each employee.

Toby Talbot / AP

Legislative leaders decided on Monday not to challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin over their plan to lower income tax rates.

The key to the deal was the assurance by the governor that he will work with lawmakers on a similar tax plan next January.

Democratic leaders at the Statehouse didn’t relish the possibility of getting into a major fight over taxes with a governor from their own party in the final days of the session.

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