Peter Hirschfeld

Reporter

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.

Ways to Connect

Gov. Phil Scott, addressing reporters from a podium at a press conference
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

In his first public comments since vetoing legislation that would have instituted a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases, Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday that he remains open to new restrictions on gun ownership in the future.

Looking up at the front of the Vermont Statehouse.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed legislation that would have made Vermont the 10th state in the country to institute a waiting period for gun sales.

A boat floats on a lake.
Elodie Reed / VPR

Now that elected officials have finally come up with most of the money needed to address water quality issues in Vermont, the state faces another clean-water conundrum: how to spend it.

Gov. Phil Scott, seen here in 2018 signing several controversial gun bills into law at a table outside the Vermont Statehouse, while others look on.
Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR file

Gov. Phil Scott has five days to decide whether Vermont will become the 10th state in the country to have a waiting period for gun purchases.

The empty Vermont Senate chamber
Oliver Parini / For VPR, File

On Wednesday evening, the Vermont Senate reconvened in Montpelier to officially adjourn the 2019 legislative session.

Senate lawmakers had hoped their House counterparts would join them at the Statehouse Wednesday, to give one last shot at passing the paid leave and minimum wage proposals. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson declined that overture, however, and the two bills will be held over until 2020.

A tri-panel picture, from left the Vermont Senate chamber, center is Gov. Phil Scott, and right is an empty Vermont House chamber.
From left: Meg Malone, Peter Hirschfeld, Meg Malone / VPR File

Vermont's 2019 legislative session has (sort of) come to a close. We look back on what ultimately happened to a number of bills that generated conversation over these past months — as well as ones you may not have heard as much about.

The Vermont Legislature didn't technically adjourn the legislative session Friday. But House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said her chamber won't be returning to the Statehouse again until 2020, which means paid leave and minimum wage bills are dead for 2019.
Toby Talbot / AP

After winning supermajorities in both chambers of the Vermont Legislature last fall, House and Senate Democrats have failed to deliver on the two issues that many voters in their party elected them to pass.

Looking up at the front of the Vermont Statehouse.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Things got a bit chaotic at the Vermont Statehouse Friday as House and Senate leaders took differing plans of action in moving toward the conclusion of the legislative session.

An aerial view of Lake Champlain
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR file

After considering a variety of new taxes to fund water quality efforts in Vermont, lawmakers now say they can clean up the state’s waterways without raising a dime.

A planner with a spot for each day of the week, set on a purple background
csy302 / iStock

Vermont lawmakers have been putting in long hours at the Statehouse this week, trying to wrap up work on a number of complex policy bills. While the Legislature had been hoping to adjourn this weekend, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said they're going to have to come back for at least a couple days next week.

Looking up at the front of the Vermont Statehouse.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

House lawmakers gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation that would boost the minimum wage in Vermont, but Senate Democrats say the increase isn’t sufficient to improve the economic standing of low-wage workers in the state.

Rich Holschuh, with the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, testifies before the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs. Holschuh said the "conventional narrative" surrounding Columbus Day "does not serve us well."
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Rich Holschuh isn’t sure yet what he’ll be doing on the second Monday in October later this year. But he says the celebration of Vermont’s first Indigenous Peoples' Day will no doubt be a big one.

Voters in Montpelier cast ballots at City Hall. Senate lawmakers have decided to defer action on a proposed charter change in Montpelier that would give non-citzens the right to vote in city elections.
John Odum, courtesy

State lawmakers are tapping the brakes on legislation that would expand voting rights in Montpelier and Brattleboro.

An aerial shot of the House floor on the opening day of the Vermont Legislature in 2019.
Oliver Parini / For VPR

House lawmakers have finally landed on a proposal to fund water quality efforts in Vermont, but leaders in the state's technology industry say the plan could put a damper on a growing sector of the Vermont economy.

The golden dome of the Vermont Statehouse against blue sky
Ric Cengeri / VPR File

As leaders in the Vermont House of Representatives struggle to galvanize support for legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some lawmakers have begun pushing for a less aggressive alternative.

Kathy Demars, executive director of Lamoille Home Health & Hospice, sits at her desk before a computer
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Low-wage workers in Vermont's health care sector could be in for a significant raise if Democratic lawmakers succeed in their effort to establish a $15 minimum wage. But some health providers say increased payroll costs could force cuts to patient services if elected officials don't boost Medicaid funding in the process.  

The Vermont House and Senate have devoted a lot of time lately to two bills in particular — paid family and medical leave, and a $15 minimum wage — but both are running into some legislative obstacles.

VPR Statehouse reporter Peter Hirschfeld provided an update on where things stand with these bills as of midday Monday.

The interior of the VPR talk studio with a microphone, chair and VPR logo on the wall.
Meg Malone / VPR File

Republican Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers in the Vermont House want to pour more than $10 million into Vermont's child care system, to address issues of affordability and availability. However, leaders in the Senate say they aren’t ready to commit to the funding plan.

Barre mother Nina Lemieux sits with her three kids, Billie, Brightlynn and Boston (from left). Shortly after Lemieux's daycare provider shut down unexpectedly in 2017, Lemieux lost her job, her savings and her apartment.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

House lawmakers last month approved a substantial increase in funding for childcare services, but leaders in the Senate say they aren’t ready to commit to the proposal.

An empty classroom with desks and a chalkboard.
maroke / iStock

In a partial ruling Friday in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of forced school district mergers, Franklin County Judge Robert Mello has dismissed several complaints lodged by the more than 30 school districts that filed the suit.

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