Veronica Zaragovia

State Reporter

Veronica Zaragovia reports on state government for KUT. She's reported as a legislative relief news person with the Associated Press in South Dakota and has contributed reporting to NPR, PRI's The World, Here & Now and Latino USA, the Agence France Presse, TIME in Hong Kong and PBS NewsHour, among others. She has two degrees from Columbia University, and has dedicated much of her adult life to traveling, learning languages and drinking iced coffee. 

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2015 Legislature
9:32 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Texas Bill Would Ensure that Only Secretary of State Can Issue Marriage Licenses

A bill from State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) would give all power to grant marriage licenses to the Texas Secretary of State. A judge granted an order earlier this year that allowed a county clerk to issue a license to a same-sex couple.
Courtesy of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant

On Wednesday, a panel of House lawmakers discussed a proposal to change how marriage licenses are issued in Texas, giving that power to one appointed official: the Secretary of State.

The bill comes after the Travis County clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple last month, after being ordered to do so by a judge.

State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) says his bill would take away the ability of the state’s 254 county clerks to issue marriage licenses, instead giving that power only to the Secretary of State.

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SXSW 2015
11:30 am
Thu March 19, 2015

If Embraced by the Industry, Med Tech Showcased at SXSW Could Transform Health Care

People are developing social networks and medical technology that could help transform the fee-for-service health care system in the U.S.
KUT News

Mary Lou Brown has felt so lonely living in Austin. Since her diagnosis with lupus in 2003, she hasn’t found any support groups for people with the disease. She gets a lot of help from her husband and son, but she says no one gets what it’s like to be in pain all day long.

"[The pain] goes from your heel all the way to the scalp, where no one can touch you," Brown says.

Most of us have an immune system that protects us from germs. But if you have lupus, your immune system can’t tell the difference between the bad guys and healthy tissue, so it attacks the healthy tissue, causing inflammation and pain.

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SXSW 2015
3:12 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Has SXSW Interactive Done More to Embrace Latinos in 2015?

The 'Bilingual Media: Latino Entertainment in the 21st Century' took place on March 17, 2015 at the Austin Convention Center.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

During the South by Southwest Interactive conference last year, only a handful of panels were on Latinos in tech, and those panels were held at an isolated Holiday Inn, nowhere near the convention center downtown.

This year, the panels on Latinos have stretched across a number of days, and all of them have been inside the bustling convention center. We spent some time with people at South by Southwest who identify as Latino to hear about their experience at the conference this year.  Listen to their voices below. 

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Affordable Care Act
9:20 am
Tue March 17, 2015

ACA Enrollment Period Extended for Those Who Were Uninsured in 2014

The federal government has allowed a special enrollment period through April 30, 2015 for certain people who faced a tax penalty on their 2014 tax return and are still uninsured.
KUT News

The signup period to buy an Obamacare plan for 2015 ended last month, but now, there’s a separate window to sign up for a very specific group of people.

Elizabeth Colvin, the director of nonprofit Insure Central Texas, which helps people with the health insurance application process, says this is only for people who are penalized on their 2014 tax return for being uninsured last year.

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2015 Legislature
10:59 am
Fri March 13, 2015

'Marlise's Law' Would Let Stand Pregnant Women's End of Life Directives in Texas

Ernest Machado speaks at the Capitol on March 12, 2015 to shore up support for a bill that would remove the pregnancy exclusion from Texas law on end of life advanced directives.
KUT News

The case of Marlise Muñoz made national headlines when her family sued a Fort Worth hospital to take her off life support.

She was kept on machines for roughly two months, but doctors couldn’t remove her because she was pregnant. This case is now in the spotlight again, but this time at the Texas Capitol. 

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Affordable Care Act
10:26 am
Fri March 13, 2015

Texans Bring Call for Medicaid Expansion to Capitol Steps

At a rally for Medicaid expansion in Texas at the Capitol on March 12, 2015, pets participated, too.
KUT News

As the legislative session picks up steam, dozens of people from across the state came to a rally on the Capitol steps Thursday to show support for Medicaid expansion in Texas under the Affordable Care Act.

Speakers included Texas residents and business community leaders like the president of the Texas Hospital Association and chambers of commerce. 

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Affordable Care Act
12:06 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Most Texans Who Enrolled in Obamacare Plan Received Tax Subsidy

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 85 percent of consumers in Texas qualified for a tax credit of about $240 dollars a month to reduce their 2015 premiums.
KUT News

In a challenge to the Affordable Care Act heard recently by the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, the argument was that people who bought health coverage on a federal exchange, like the one in Texas, cannot qualify for a tax credit to make the monthly premium cheaper. That's because of wording in the health care law that challengers of the legislation say only allows the IRS to give tax credits to people on a state exchange.

While that battle plays out in Washington, the federal government has released numbers this week showing how many people are receiving tax credits.

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2015 Legislature
10:42 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Senate Bill Could Change How Texas Agencies Make Deals

State senators are reviewing a bill that would change Texas laws on how state agencies award contracts.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

A state senator says Texas has "gaping holes" in the laws on contracting. To change that, a panel of lawmakers is reviewing a bill from State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would overhaul how billions of dollars in state funding are awarded.

Under the bill, the more money involved in a state agency contract, the more competitive bids required before signing a deal. Agencies would have to post their contracts online and develop a contract management database, for instance.

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Texas
10:41 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Updated: Texas Man Cleared by DNA Gets Posthumous Degree

An online petition collected more than 12,000 signatures in support of asking Texas Tech University to grant a posthumous degree to Timothy Cole. Friday the board voted to award him the degree.
thepetitionsite.com

Update March 10, 2015 9:45 a.m. Texas Tech University's Board of Regents voted Friday to award an honorary degree to Timothy Cole. The Associated Press first reported about this vote on Monday, after the university released a statement on the regents' vote.

Original story Dec. 11, 2014: Timothy Cole was the first person to receive a Texas posthumous pardon for a crime he didn’t commit. That happened in 2010. Now, a Texas resident wants Texas Tech University to grant Cole an honorary degree.

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2015 Legislature
8:56 am
Mon March 9, 2015

Texting While Driving Ban Bill Gets Another Run at Texas Capitol

Texas lawmakers are discussing a texting while driving bill again in the 2015 legislative session.
via Xconomy

Texas lawmakers in a transportation committee say they want to make 2015 the year Texas bans texting and driving statewide.

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Immigration
8:43 am
Mon March 9, 2015

U.S. Children of Undocumented Parents Report Anxiety, Depression

A study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies led by UT Austin School of Social Work Dean Luis Zayas suggests children of undocumented parents have high levels of anxiety.
KUT News

A study from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Davis, and the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría, Mexico City, looks at the mental health of children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are undocumented Mexican immigrants.  

These U.S.-born children of undocumented parents reported high levels of anxiety and also symptoms of depression if their parents were detained or deported. 

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2015 Legislature
10:36 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Without Medicaid Flexibility, Texas Republicans Say No to Program's Expansion

The Texas Senate Republican Caucus has sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying that without flexibility in the current Medicaid program, they won't support any type of expansion of the program in the future.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Leaders of the Texas Senate have sent a letter to President Barack Obama [read a PDF of the letter here] about Medicaid. It says that if Texas can’t make changes to how it runs Medicaid now, there’ll be no Medicaid expansion for Texas in the future.

The Affordable Care Act gives states the option to expand Medicaid to cover more people, or in the case of Texas and some other states, not expand it.

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2015 Legislature
10:34 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Why Texas Deletes Vaccine Records from State Registry

A group of doctors visited State Rep. Ken Sheets, R-Dallas, to discuss the ImmTrac vaccine registry in Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

With vaccines in the news the past couple months, you might have got to wondering about your own.

Remember that card with a record of all of your shots on it? If you’re past your college days, it might’ve been a while since you’ve seen it – if you even have at all. If you didn’t tell your doctor at age 18 that you want Texas to keep that record electronically, chances are your records are gone, but some state lawmakers are trying to change that. 

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Health
2:53 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Over-the-Counter Birth Control Could Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, Research Says

A new study published in 'Contraception' suggests the number of low-income women using birth control pills would jump if they were covered by insurance and made available without a prescription.
Monik Marcus/flickr http://bit.ly/ODQleE

About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and low-income women are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy.

A new study suggests that if birth control pills were covered by insurance and made available over the counter, the rate of unintended pregnancies would drop anywhere from seven up to 25 percent. 

The study, published in the journal Contraception, found that the number of low-income women using birth control pills would jump between 11 and 21 percent if they were both covered by insurance and made available without a prescription.

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Texas
12:25 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Reaction to Immigration Overhaul Block Runs Along Party Lines in Texas

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, criticized U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's temporary stay of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
Credit KUT News

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not start accepting applications Wednesday for a program designed to shield more than four million immigrants from deportation, a direct result of this week's federal court ruling that temporarily halts an expansion of the program to people over 30 and to immigrant parents living in the country illegally.

The reaction to this decision runs along party lines. U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, says the deportation relief provided to people who came to the country as children boosts the economy by putting people to work.

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Affordable Care Act
2:28 pm
Sat February 14, 2015

Signup Period for Health Insurance on Federal Marketplace Ends Sunday

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visits Austin on Feb. 13, 2015, two days before the deadline to sign up for health coverage on the federal marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Ahead of Sunday's deadline, officials say consumers are stepping up enrollment for 2015 coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law. The President's top health official was in Austin Friday to encourage more Texans to enroll.

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Same-Sex Marriage
4:30 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Gay Couples Ask Court to Lift Hold on Same-Sex Marriage in Texas

Plaintiffs in a case against the same-sex marriage ban in Texas are asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge's ruling that the gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Karina Kling/Time Warner Cable News

Plaintiffs in a case challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas have filed a new request [read PDF here] asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge’s ruling that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That stay is in place while the appeals process continues.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ruled against the gay marriage ban in Texas, but he put that decision on hold temporarily while Texas appealed it.

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Same-Sex Marriage
3:43 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

What Does the Alabama Marriage Ruling Mean for Texas?

Morguefile

Alabama is now the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage. In January, a federal judge struck down that state’s gay marriage ban, and a federal appeals court let it stand.  

The process went like this:

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2015 Legislature
4:22 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Bill Would Require More Texas Parents to Vaccinate Children

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is introducing a bill that would reduce the number of reasons parents can use to get their children in public schools exempted from required vaccinations.
Pascal Dolémieux/flickr

A state lawmaker wants to boost vaccine requirements for children in Texas public schools and give parents fewer exemptions.

Right now, public schools in Texas can waive immunization requirements for students whose parents claim exemptions including medical, military or what the state calls reasons of conscience.

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Criminal Justice
11:49 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Texas' Use of Solitary Confinement Worsens Inmate Mental Illness, Report Says

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project says Texas' prison agency uses solitary confinement way too much.
Still Burning/flickr

Texas prisons kept 6,564 people in solitary confinement in 2014, and civil rights groups in Texas have a new report out that argues the state is using what it calls administrative segregation way too much: for an average of four years per inmate, and in some cases, as long as two decades.

Inmates are locked up alone in a 60-square-foot cell most of the day in Texas, and researchers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project say that worsens mental illness and makes inmates more dangerous to guards and to the public. It also costs taxpayers at least $46 million a year in extra security costs, according to the report.

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