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The Vermont Legislature

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VPR reporter and Vermont Edition host Bob Kinzel has been covering the Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. To take advantage of his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series — Ask Bob. Check out past questions and submit your own here.

Catch Up With Vermont's Congressional Delegation

Sen. Patrick Leahy | Sen. Bernie Sanders | Rep. Peter Welch | Congress

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Hundreds of Vermonters turned out for a public hearing earlier this month on an abortion-rights bill introduced in Montpelier. The Vermont House preliminarily approved the legislation by a vote of 104-40 Wednesday evening.
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / The Times Argus

An abortion-rights bill approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday evening wouldn’t change the legal status quo in Vermont, but the legislation nonetheless spurred a six-hour debate on the House floor.

The Rice Memorial High School sign outside the school on a snowy, gray day.
Meg Malone / VPR

Two families from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington are suing the state, arguing religious schools should be allowed to use the dual enrollment program.

Under dual enrollment, high school students take college courses for credit, and the state picks up the tab. The program is closed to students from parochial schools, but there are two bills in the legislature that would open it up to all high school students.

Sen. Bernie Sanders stands outside a blue bus that says Bernie 2016 on the side of it.
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press File

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary will be similar to 2016 in at least one regard: Bernie Sanders is running for the nomination. But political observers say the electoral landscape has changed dramatically since Sanders’ last presidential bid, and not necessarily in ways that favor his latest candidacy.

Taylor Jewell / Invision/AP

Documentaries stood out at this year’s Sundance Festival – like John Chester’s Biggest Little Farm, with its detailed look at the withering challenges faced by a Santa Monica couple who flees Los Angeles to start an organic farm in the California countryside. Confronted by drought, wildfire, ravenous coyotes, toxic algae and a sick pig, they can only choose to endure. Many Vermonters could relate.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, pictured here during the 2016 presidential election, announced Feb. 19 he'll again seek the Democratic nomination for president.
Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders is officially in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. We're talking with political scientists about Sanders' announcement, the crowded 2020 field and what it all means for Vermont.

The January 2017 women's march in Montpelier was followed by what organizers called a Unity Rally on the steps of the Statehouse. The march addressed issues like racism and civil rights.
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

The Vermont Human Rights Commission is a state agency whose sole mission is to protect and preserve the human rights of Vermonters. The small agency—just three investigators, an executive director and an executive assistant—works on discrimination in housing, state government, employment and in public spaces like schools and restaurants. Now the Commission's new executive director is pledging to take a more proactive approach to fighting discrimination. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is giving it another go, launching a second campaign for the White House four years after surprising Democrats with a strong bid for the party's 2016 nomination.

"We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it's time to move that revolution forward," the independent senator told Vermont Public Radio in an interview airing Tuesday morning.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a press conference
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Sen. Bernie Sanders has confirmed to VPR that he is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The New Hampshire primary is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 11, 2020, which is only — or "still," depending on your tolerance for campaign coverage — about a year away.

And for the past half-century, one of the most recognizable symbols of the Granite State's early electoral contest has been Dixville Notch's midnight vote.

UVM professor Harvey Amani Whitfield, seen here in his office, has studied the history of slavery in Vermont.
Sawyer Loftus / VPR

Vermont is often thought as one of the first state's to abolish slavery. The state's constitution, drafted in 1777, outlawed slavery, but it existed in the state's early years. There's an effort in the Vermont legislature this session to eliminate all references to slavery in the constitution.

President Donald Trump speaking into a podium mircophone.
Susan Walsh / Associated Press

Members of Vermont's congressional delegation are speaking out after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday morning to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

New England activists and lawmakers say the Environmental Protection Agency's new plan to manage harmful PFAS chemicals isn't aggressive enough.

The EPA says this plan is a broad roadmap of goals for protecting people from exposure to the huge class of likely toxic PFAS chemicals.

These industrial chemicals were used for decades to make non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant coatings, as well as firefighting foams and other industrial products.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

Calling it "a great thing to do," President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in order to help finance a long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It's a highly unusual move from an unconventional president.

The Vermont Constitution may be amended to clarify its ban on slavery.
Wikimedia Commons

It's often repeated that Vermont's was the first state constitution to outlaw slavery, but the language of the document may actually have some caveats. Sponsors of a constitutional amendment want to change the language to make the ban absolute. We're talking about the history and the proposal.

Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr swore his oath of office on Thursday following his confirmation by the Senate earlier in the afternoon.

Senators voted 54-45 to confirm Barr to resume the post he first occupied in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts then administered Barr's oath in a ceremony at the White House.

Updated at 3:13 p.m. ET

A critical new report from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General finds the department's student loan unit failed to adequately supervise the companies it pays to manage the nation's trillion-dollar portfolio of federal student loans. The report also rebukes the department's office of Federal Student Aid for rarely penalizing companies that failed to follow the rules.

The spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee is being moved from the cooling pools, shown in this photo, into dry cask storage.
Toby Talbot / AP/file

When you think about renewable energy, does a nuclear power plant come to mind? Probably not. But in a roundabout way,  Vermont utilities are using nuclear energy to meet the state’s renewable energy standards.

Porche: Devotion

Feb 14, 2019
Porche

When invited to offer a devotional at the Vermont State Legislature this year, I thought about how lately most every headline I read seems to carry a potentially lethal dose of venom. So I decided to present a love poem to devotion to even up the score a bit.

Spending negotiators may have reached an agreement on an outline to avoid a government shutdown, but the final legislation is still incomplete less than three days before the Friday deadline.

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