Peter Hirschfeld


Peter Hirschfeld covers state government and the Vermont Legislature. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse.

Hirschfeld is a leading Vermont journalist who has covered the Statehouse since 2009, most recently as bureau chief for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. He began his career in 2003, working as a local sports reporter and copy editor at the Times Argus.

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Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives will need to find at least eight more votes for their paid family leave bill if they hope to override an expected veto by Gov. Phil Scott.
Matthew Smith / VPR file

The Vermont Legislature has given final approval to legislation that would create a statewide paid family leave program, but its passage into law remains uncertain.

A person stands at a podium.
Josh Kuckens / Times Argus

Updated 5:40 p.m.

Governor Phil Scott has proposed a state budget he said will help Vermont's "demographic crisis." It increases state spending by roughly 2%, though it doesn't include any new taxes or fees. It does offer tax cuts for workers, financial incentives for businesses and entrepreneurs, and new money for the tourism economy.

Looking down on the empty Vermont Senate chamber, with papers at desks
Elodie Reed / VPR

The Vermont Senate approved paid family leave legislation Friday by enough votes to override an expected veto by Gov. Phil Scott.

Marc Brown, facilities director at the Kingdom East School District, near standing water
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A new survey of school districts across Vermont has revealed a backlog of more than half a billion dollars in unmet infrastructure needs.

State troopers and protesters in the Vermont Statehouse
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Times Argus

Gov. Phil Scott delivered his State of the State address Thursday afternoon, but climate change activists made sure it did not go as planned. Officials had to temporarily halt the speech while police escorted 16 demonstrators from the House chamber.

The brick exterior of Brattleboro Retreat.
Toby Talbot / Associated Press File

The board that oversees the Brattleboro Retreat, Vermont’s largest inpatient psychiatric facility and the only one designated to treat children, has voted to “begin the process of either closing or selling” the facility, according to Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith.

A snow-covered Vermont Statehouse, with an American and Vermont flag flying in front.
Oliver Parini / For VPR

Democratic lawmakers closed out Vermont's 2019 legislative session in May under a cloud of discord after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach agreement on paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage. But House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe say they're on a united front heading into 2020.

The front of a Bellavance Trucking vehicle.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Officials in 12 states, including Vermont, have unveiled a proposal that would reduce carbon emissions from cars and trucks by reshaping the market for fossil fuels in the Northeast.

But while supporters of the Transportation and Climate Initiative say it offers a surefire way to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, critics say the plan will drive up the cost of gasoline and diesel.

Close headshot of Governor Phil Scott
Rick Bowmer / Associated Press File

In a move that could recast the partisan political debate over paid family and medical leave in Vermont, the Scott administration has inked a two-year contract with the state workers union that will create an unprecedented paid leave benefit for 8,500 state employees.

A person sits at a table with papers on the surface.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Lawmakers need to beef up resources at the Vermont Human Rights Commission in order to investigate allegations of racial bias in the criminal justice system, according to an advisory panel created by the Legislature.

A bus in a station with a person crossing a crosswalk in front of it.
Elodie Reed / VPR

For a state that calls itself green, Vermont sure has a lot of drivers. So what can be done?

The exterior of the Vermont Supreme Court building on State Street in Montpelier.
Matthew Smith / VPR File

Gov. Phil Scott has appointed a superior court judge from Rutland to serve as the next associate justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.

A stethoscope on top of a calculator
Aslan Alphan / iStock

State regulators say an out-of-state health insurance company illegally sold inadequate plans to thousands of college students in Vermont and improperly denied nearly a half-million dollars in medical claims.

Two young men hold a banner ahead of a crowd
Elodie Reed / VPR File

Vermont lawmakers have begun working on a bill that would institute legally binding mandates for statewide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

"Transformations" and "The Animal," two Vermont-made "folk horror" films, will be part of the VTIFF/Folklife Center "horror roadshow" film screenings.
VTIFF/Vermont Folklife Center, courtesy

In a good horror movie, it's easy to identify what makes it scary. Maybe it’s the chainsaw-wielding maniac that makes an indelible impression on the viewer, or the killer clown or other supernatural monster tormenting those plucky protagonists. But can the landscape itself inspire horror? Two Vermont-made films screening across the state the week before Halloween aim to do just that.

Donut graph asking how well you think most Vermont state elected officials understand the challenges facing rural Vermonters? 13% said very well, 45% somewhat well, 20% very little, 14% not at all, 8% don't know / refused. Margin of error is +/- 3.5%.

The Vermont Rural Life Survey, a part of the VPR and Vermont PBS This Land reporting project, highlights the opinions and experiences of those living in the state. Vermont Edition is talking with key lawmakers about how they plan to keep up with changes, the challenges to revitalize our rural economies, and the limits of state government to address issues like broadband, demographics and health care.

A road in Vermont in fall looking toward mountains
Elodie Reed / VPR

Vermonters generally enjoy life in their rural communities, and most say they're optimistic about the future, according to the new Rural Life Survey commissioned by VPR and Vermont PBS. But the poll also reveals stark challenges threatening the future of rural economies that experts say are in a time of "enormous transition."

Three people stand behind a podium with an ACLU banner on it.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union unveiled a legislative agenda Tuesday it says elected officials could use to cut the state’s prison population in half. Items on the agenda include the elimination of cash bail and the decriminalization of many drug crimes.

Mark Hughes, founder of Justice for All, says a "bias-incident reporting system" launched earlier this year has done little to addressed the systemic racism affecting people of color in Vermont.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Racial justice advocates say they’re unimpressed by a reporting system launched earlier this year that changed the way police handle racial bias incidents in Vermont.

Aita Gurung allegedly killed his wife at the family's home on Hyde Street in Burlington on Oct. 12. Just days before, on Oct. 7, he had self-reported to Burlington Police his involvement in a domestic violence incident.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan has refiled a murder charge against a Burlington man accused of killing his wife with a meat cleaver in 2017. Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George dismissed charges against Aita Gurung earlier this year, after the suspect's lawyers mounted an insanity defense.