Vermont Legislature

Looking up at the Vermont Statehouse with a blue sky background.
Angela Evancie / VPR file

VPR reporter Bob Kinzel has been covering the Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature.

To take advantage of that institutional memory, we're kicking off a new periodic segment called "Ask Bob." First up: a look at the increasing number of lobbyists in the Vermont Statehouse.

The average smart phone is replaced roughly every 22 months, spurring calls across the country to protect customers' "right to repair" their electronics.
Bru-nO / Pexels

Have you ever tried fixing one of your electric gadgets? Even simply replacing the battery in your cell phone can require special skills or tools. You may not be allowed to do more advanced repairs without potentially voiding a warranty. That's led to demands across the country, including here in Vermont, for the "right to repair," the ability to perform basic repairs on items like smart phones, other electronics and more.

The Vermont Senate has voted for a bill that raises the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over a 6 year period
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

The Vermont Senate has given preliminary approval to legislation that increases the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over a 6 year period.

House lawmakers gave final approval to a wide-ranging gun bill Tuesday night. The legislation heads now to the Vermont Senate, which is expected to hold a final vote before the end of the week.
Angela Evancie / VPR file

House lawmakers have advanced a bill that would prevent the state from handing over voter data to the federal government.

The Vermont Statehouse with snow around it.
Henry Epp / VPR File

Last week the Vermont House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing “the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and Vermont Black communities.”

But Rep. Kiah Morris, a Democratic lawmaker from Bennington, told Vermont Edition she was stunned by some of her colleagues’ comments made before and after the resolution was passed.

Chittenden Couty Sen. Chris Pearson says Vermont could improve enforcement of state water quality laws by allowing citizens to sue polluters.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

As environmental advocates grow increasingly worried about whether government regulators will adequately enforce new water quality rules, some lawmakers want to give regular citizens the authority to hold polluters to account.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson says passage of a property tax reform package is a top priority for this session
Angela Evancie / VPR file

A proposal is being developed representing the first major change to education financing in Vermont in over a decade, and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson says she's committed to making it a reality.

Former Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand told lawmakers this week that the advent of marijauna legalization in Vermont should compel lawmakers to revisit the expungement process for misdemeanor cannabis convictions.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

After making some drastic changes to the state’s cannabis laws earlier this year, some lawmakers are now asking whether they should make it easier for people to expunge their old misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

Senate Health and Welfare chairwoman Sen. Claire Ayer is backing a plan to allow Vermont to purchase some prescription drugs from Canada at much lower costs
Angela Evancie / VPR File

The Vermont Senate Committee on Health and Welfare has given its unanimous approval to legislation designed to save Vermont consumers and state government programs millions of dollars in prescription drug costs.

A sign posted at Vermont Public Radio showcases the rise in state minimum wage over recent years. The photo has a filter out areas of the document while leaving other parts in focus.
Photo: Emily Alfin Johnson; Photo Illustration: Meg Malone / VPR

A key Vermont Senate committee has given its approval to legislation increasing the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over a 6-year period. 

Senate Transportation chairman Dick Mazza says he'll oppose a primary enforcement seat belt law this year
Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Efforts to strengthen the enforcement of Vermont's seat belt law are running into opposition in the Vermont Senate.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

When Act 148 — the state's Universal Recycling Law — unanimously passed in 2012, it put a lot of new requirements on the state's waste haulers. Two years shy of the next key implementation deadline, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is considering a bill that would ease some of those requirements.

Georgia Mountain Wind

The head of the Vermont Department of Public Service says it would require significant resources for the state to take a more proactive role in tracking down businesses and individuals that violate their state permits when operating renewable energy projects.

And for now, it's just "not feasible."

Nearly 1,000 people showed up at the Statehouse Tuesday evening to argue for and against proposed legislation that would allow police to temporarily remove guns from someone arrested or cited for domestic violence.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

In the latest testament to the enduring salience of the politics of firearms in Vermont, nearly 1,000 people turned out at a public hearing in the Statehouse Tuesday evening to offer impassioned arguments for — and against — proposed gun legislation.

House Ways and Means chairwoman Janet Ancel is hopeful that this is the year for lawmakers to consider a new plan to fund education
Angela Evancie / VPR file

The Vermont House Committee on Ways and Means is taking a serious look at making some significant changes in the way education is financed in the state.

Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar, with Migrant Justice, say the new fair and impartial policing policy opens to door to increased collaboration between local police and federal immigration authorities.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Migrant farmworkers say a new policy to encourage bias-free policing in Vermont could actually end up increasing cooperation between state law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities.

A Vermont State Police cruiser watches for speeding drivers on I-89 in September 2015.
Steve Zind / VPR

Vermont lawmakers are taking up a new highway safety bill that could make failure to wear a seat belt a "stoppable offense," as well as introduce tougher penalties for young motorists using cell phones while driving.

The push comes after a third of victims in Vermont's fatal crashes last year weren't wearing seat belts, in what was the deadliest year on Vermont roads in four years.

Senate Transportation chairman Dick Mazza says he'll oppose a primary enforcement seat belt law this year
Toby Talbot / Associated Press

The Vermont House has given strong initial support to a highway safety bill that includes the primary enforcement of Vermont's seat belt law.

Bradford Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas speaks at the Vermont Statehouse on Thursday, Jan. 25.
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / The Times Argus

As the #MeToo movement continues to illuminate the prevalence of harassment and abuse that many women face in the workplace, a tri-partisan group of Vermont legislators is trying to make it easier for victims to report bad behavior.

The rate of incarceration in Vermont has dropped by a third over the last decade, according to a new survey by Pew Charitable Trusts. But officials with the Vermont ACLU says the state still jails far more people than it needs to.
txking / iStock

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign that will try to cut the state's halve the prison population in Vermont.

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