Kirk Carapezza

Online Editor/Reporter

Kirk is a reporter for the NPR member station in Boston, WGBH, where he covers higher education, connecting the dots between post-secondary education and the economy, national security, jobs and global competitiveness. Kirk has been a reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis.; a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad. Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway. You can follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkCarapezza.

 

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UPDATE 1:48 p.m.: After three hours of debate, the Vermont House votes 98-44 to make it a civil offense to possess one ounce or less of marijuana.

ORIGINAL POST 11:50 a.m.: Supporters of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana appear poised to clear a major hurdle. The Vermont House is set to vote today on a bill that would make it a civil offense – rather than a criminal one – to possess one ounce or less of the drug.

Toby Talbot / AP

Supporters of decriminalizing - or even legalizing - the possession of small amounts of marijuana have cleared a major hurdle. The Vermont House voted 98-to-44 on Friday to make it a civil offense - instead of a crime - to possess one ounce or less of pot.

Backers of the bill, again and again, made one thing clear: it would not legalize marijuana.

"I think there are a few of us in the Legislature who support taxing and regulating marijuana, but it's clearly not a consensus," said Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington.

Supporters of a bill that would allow terminally ill people to end their lives by requesting lethal doses of medication from physicians are hoping the Vermont House can manage to revive the legislation, which was watered down earlier in the Senate.

This week, the House Judiciary and Human Services committees have been taking testimony on the bill that supporters call “death with dignity” and detractors call “physician-assisted death.”

A group of physicians and health professionals are expressing their opposition to a proposed tax on dietary supplements.

When the House passed its $26 million budget last month, it proposed the tax, which would raise $3.1 million in 2014. Now, a diverse coalition is trying reverse the proposal. The coalition includes the Vermont Nurse Practitioners Association, the Vermont Psychological Association, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Hunger Mountain Co-op.

Legislation designed to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana is heading to the House floor for a full debate.

Late Wednesday afternoon, after hours of testimony, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make it a civil offense – rather than a criminal one – to possess one ounce or less of marijuana. The 9-2 committee vote comes as the issue of decriminalization is moving swiftly through the country, and it comes in a state whose local law enforcement remain divided on the issue.

Governor Peter Shumlin is increasingly seeking the advice of the state’s business community as Vermont prepares to launch the country’s first single payer health care system. But critics of the plan say the governor is surrounding himself with like-minded business leaders, some of whom have donated to his campaigns.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate has passed a bill that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants regardless of their immigration status.

With a nearly unanimous voice vote, state senators gave their final approval Tuesday morning to the measure that would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards for people living illegally in Vermont.

Kirk Carapezza / VPR

Lawmakers are set to vote on a bill this week that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The House Judiciary Committee has been taking testimony for weeks and the bill is likely to pass Tuesday afternoon.

State officials have learned this week how federal across-the-board spending cuts will affect Vermont.

Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan says the most tangible consequence is the federal mandate that the state reduce unemployment benefits by 10 percent for the long-term jobless.

Noonan says that cut, which goes into effect today, will be difficult for the 1,000 Vermonters who receive long-term unemployment checks.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver’s licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

Toby Talbot / AP

The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly advanced a bill on Friday that would give driver's licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The bill would create what are described as drivers' authorization cards for people living in Vermont illegally. It would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

We’re getting a better idea today of the effects that across-the-board federal spending cuts will have on the state.

In February, it was estimated that Vermont would lose $15 million. While that figure hasn’t changed, Vermont’s legislative Joint Fiscal Office now estimates that the state is poised to lose $9.3 million over the next two fiscal years, most of which will be felt in 2014.

Vermont’s attorney general wants a marijuana decriminalization bill moving though the House to allow people to grow one or two plants.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says if the state doesn’t allow Vermonters to grow their own pot it will force them to buy marijuana illegally.

One of the country's top medical journals is touting Vermont's health care reform effort as an example for the rest of the nation.

A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine says other states can learn some lessons from Vermont in rolling out health exchanges that are essential to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Doctor Laura Grubb at the University of Texas wrote the report. In a phone interview Wednesday, she said other states should follow Vermont administrators' lead and take matters into their own hands.

The momentum to reform Vermont’s earned income tax credit appeared to run out last week, but Governor Peter Shumlin continues to lobby a small group of state senators. He hopes to strike a deal on his proposal to subsidize child care by redirecting $17 million from the tax credit for poor working Vermonters.

A week after a key House committee narrowly rejected his plan, Shumlin has his work cut out for him in the Senate.

AP/Toby Talbot

The House Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would explore why gasoline prices are higher in certain areas of Vermont.

Gas prices in the northwestern part of the state have been considerably higher than many other regions. The average disparity in prices in Chittenden County is about 22 cents.

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, is sponsoring a measure that would require distributors to provide data to the attorney general’s office.

Key members of the House are skeptical of a Senate bill that calls for a statewide study of the impact of renewable projects on Vermont’s environment.

Last week, after hours of often heated debate, the Senate passed a stripped-down measure of a bill that originally would have given towns more control in the state review of energy projects that are proposed for their communities.

Kirk Carapezza / VPR

Vermont became the first state on Monday to publish the rates it would charge people who don't currently have health insurance to get coverage - a key step toward establishing the health exchanges that are central to the federal health care law known as Obamacare.

Under the proposed rates, the amount that individuals would pay every month would vary from $360 for the most basic package to more than $600 for the most comprehensive.

After a long week debating budgets, taxes and renewable energy siting policies, Senate and House lawmakers can take a breath as they return to their committees this week to discuss a wide range of topics.The House Judiciary Committee will continue to take testimony on a measure that would decriminalize the poss

Kirk Carapezza / VPR File Photo

Vermont, which continues to emerge as a national health care leader, released on Monday the amount it proposes to charge consumers for health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Under the proposed rates, the average cost for an individual would vary from $365.76 for the most basic package to $609.47 for the most comprehensive. Rates for family plans would be higher. People under certain income limits would get federal subsidies to pay for insurance.

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