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

Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s hopeful that Congress can pass meaningful immigration reform legislation this year. Leahy says the proposal needs to balance stronger border security measures with a plan to offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

A bi partisan group of 8 U.S. Senators has been working on an immigration package for several months.  The specific plan is expected to be unveiled this week and the general outline of the proposal was released this weekend.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to open debate on gun control legislation. One person at the center of this discussion is Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bob Kinzel spoke with Leahy on Thursday about the whether he was surprised by the wide margin of senators who agreed to have the debate on gun control.

Senator Patrick Leahy says he's pleased that the debate over gun control legislation will proceed in the U.S. Senate over the next few weeks.

An effort to filibuster the legislation was defeated on Thursday.

The legislation would expand the federal background check system for gun shows and be used for all gun sales on the Internet. It would also toughen penalties for individuals who purchase guns for people who are prohibited from owning those weapons.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy urged his colleagues to allow a vote on the bill.

Bob Kinzel / VPR

Legislation to bring the state's hospitals under Vermont's Open Meeting Law faces an uphill battle at the Statehouse.

Backers of the legislation argue that because Vermont hospitals receive more than a billion dollars in state and federal funds, the Board meetings of these institutions should be subject to Vermont's Open Meeting Law.

Ethan Parke is a member of Vermont Health Care for All. He says hospital Boards make important public policy decisions with government funds and he thinks it's a key democratic principle to have these meetings open to the public.

The Senate Finance committee is working on a tax package for next year and the plan is likely to look quite different from a proposal adopted in the House several weeks ago.

The House plan raised roughly $25 million in 2014 and $46 million in 2015. It increased the rooms and meals tax by half a percent, imposed the sales tax on soda, candy, and bottled water, and capped personal income tax deductions.

Governor Peter Shumlin has vowed to oppose any plan that increases a broad based tax and he says the House proposal does this three times.

Governor Peter Shumlin's plan to finance a major expansion of child care programs is sharply dividing Vermont's early childhood community.

Within the state's early childhood community, there's almost unanimous support for the Governor's plan to significantly increase funding for child care subsidies and to boost rates for providers.  But there's a huge disagreement over how to pay for the initiative.

Toby Talbot / AP

Vermont has received $250 million in federal funds over the last eighteen months to set up its health care exchange.

Friday on Vermont Edition, we examine how that money is being spent, and what work remains to meet the deadline of launching the state's exchange by the end of 2013. Our guests are Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, and Robin Lunge, the governor's director of the health care reform.

Pete Hirschfeld, bureau chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, talks with Vermont Edition about some of the issues being debated at the Statehouse this week.

Governor Shumlin's plan to transfer $17 million from the state's Earned Income Tax Credit program to pay for his child care initiative is under fire in the Senate.

Shumlin is looking to the Senate to keep his plan alive because it was rejected by the House last month.

The EITC is a federal program and Vermont matches 32 percent of a household's federal credit. The program is designed primarily to assist low income working people with children.

The Senate Transportation committee is set to make a key change in the gas tax bill that was adopted by the House several weeks ago.

Lawmakers are eyeing the gas tax as a way to raise new revenue to allow the state to take full advantage of all federal matching money that's available.

The Transportation Fund has a major shortfall this year because the gas tax is levied on a per gallon basis nd sales have dropped more than 40 million gallons over the past 7 years.

This year Senator Bill Doyle tabulated almost 14,000 surveys from all parts of the state, and by a margin of 56 to 33 percent, those responding to the Survey said they didn't want to increase the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

Doyle says he was surprised by these results.

"I will say that I knew it would go down but I didn't think it would go down 2 to 1, said Doyle. Most of us drive to work and when you drive to work you're using a lot of gasoline."

Play Ball, 2013!

Mar 29, 2013
VPR/Ric Cengeri / The 2013 baseball season begins Sunday night.

The smell of the grass. The smack of ball into mitt. The crack of the bat. All signs that the baseball season is near. The 2013 season opens Sunday night when the Texas Rangers travel to Houston to face the now-American League Astros.

This should prove to be an interesting season in the AL East, where the Red Sox and Yankees could struggle. Toronto made some major off-season moves, the Orioles continue to develop and the Tampa Bay Rays have gone from also-rans to perennial contenders.

Governor Peter Shumlin

Mar 28, 2013
Former Gov. Peter Shumlin says he underestimated the political and policy challenges of implementing a single payer health care system in Vermont.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Back in January, the Governor laid out his budget plans and priorities. And his second inauguration speech was devoted almost entirely to education.As the Legislature now debates tax revenues and tries to agree on a budget, Governor Peter Shumlin joins us to offer his reaction to the State House maneuvering.

AP/Toby Talbot / This photo taken March 20, 2013 shows people listening to Lindsey Tucker, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Vermont

Vermont's new health care exchange will go into effect in January 2014. Starting then, all individuals and companies with fewer than 50 employees will be required to purchase health insurance coverage through that exchange.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

In the next few weeks,lawmakers will consider a number of critical issues, including how to raise newtax revenue, local control over energy projects, an end of life bill and the decriminalization of marijuana.

Senate President John Campbell talks about these and other issues.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

The debate over putting a moratorium on wind energy projects in Vermont and taken a turn. Now a bill in the Statehouse would instead give towns a greater say in whether wind projects could be built within the town's lines by subjecting projects to Act 250 criteria. We discuss who should decide where wind energy projects are built in Vermont with state Sen. Joe Benning,who supports a moratorium, and Gabrielle Stebbins of Renewable Energy Vermont who argues for a statewide approach to wind projects.

VPR's Bob Kinzel.

The Legislature gets back to business in Montpelier next week and it has a long list of issues to address. Lawmakers will have to draft a state budget for next year without knowing the full impact of the federal sequestration cuts, as well as vet several tax plans, including the gas tax, a tax on soda and a tax onbreak-open tickets.

Burlington Free-Press Reporter Terri Hallenbeck, Dave Gram of the Associated Press and VPR's Ross Sneyd look at these topics as well as the future of efforts to regulate wind projects and an end-of-life bill.

The Sequester Cometh

Mar 1, 2013
Toby Talbot / AP File

It's March 1st and the across the board government spending cuts known as the sequester are supposed to go into effect today. We'll discuss what those cuts might mean for Vermont with Congressman Peter Welch and Governor Shumlin.

AP/Toby Talbot / Vermont Adjutant General Steven Cray

Vermont is the only state in the country that has its adjutant general elected by the Legislature. In 48 states, the governor selects the person to fill the role. In South Carolina, they are elected by the voters. The position was vacated by Adjutant General, Michael Dubie who was chosen by President Obama to serve as Deputy Commander of the United States Northern Command.

The Legislature chose Air Guard Brigadier General Steven Cray. The other candidates were retired Army Col.Michael Bullock, Army Col. Darryl Ducharme and South Burlington patent lawyer James Leas.

Welch On The Sequester

Feb 15, 2013
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and others finish a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, to

President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. But before Congress can take up anything else, they have to re-negotiate the debt ceiling and keep sequestration cuts from going into effect on March 1st.

Congressman Welch discusses these and other issues facing Congress.

Also on the program, VPR's John Dillon provides analysis of the week's news.

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