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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Ebola
5:30 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Nurse Who Treated Ebola Patients Agrees to Self-Quarantine in Texas

An unidentified nurse has returned to Texas from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Oct. 29, 2014.
Image courtesy Dave Wilson http://www.flickr.com/photos/dawilson/

An unidentified nurse has returned to Texas from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport this morning.

The nurse has no symptoms of the disease, but has agreed to a request from Gov. Rick Perry to self-quarantine at home for 21 days. In a statement, Gov. Perry called her a "health care hero" and said the state will check in on her twice a day, but she was not forced to quarantine.

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Criminal Justice
10:38 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Texas Criminal Justice Spending Driven Largely by Elderly Inmates

Members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee expect to discuss ways to reduce spending, at the 2015 legislative session, on geriatric inmates, like medically recommended parole.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Because Texas spends millions of dollars a year on geriatric prison inmates to treat chronic health conditions, lawmakers are discussing options to change this.

Next session, members of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee expect to discuss geriatric parole, also known as medically recommended parole, which would allow some elderly inmates to finish out their sentence outside the prison system. 

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Ebola
9:05 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Texas' Infectious Disease Task Force Listens to Experts on Viruses like Ebola

The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease listened to testimony yesterday from experts in the state who know how viruses like Ebola could be handled in Texas.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The newly formed Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease listened to hours of testimony yesterday from experts in the state who know how viruses like Ebola could be handled in Texas.

In fact, that hearing has already yielded many lessons.

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Ebola
5:29 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Health Workers in U.S. at Risk for Ebola Should Be on No-Fly List, Perry Says

Gov. Rick Perry speaks at a press conference about Ebola at the Capitol on Oct. 17, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling it "indefensible" that one of the nurses who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and died last week, would be cleared to fly from Ohio to Dallas. She had told health officials she had a low fever before being cleared to fly. 

Gov. Perry is also joining fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz in pressing for a travel ban to and from the West African countries most affected by the Ebola virus, exempting people like health care workers. 

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Affordable Care Act
9:07 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Obamacare Coverage Expansion in Texas Prompts Alternative Health Care Models

Walmart recently opened a Care Clinic in Copperas Cove, Texas, near the Fort Hood military base.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Although the Affordable Care Act has led to thousands of people in Texas getting insurance for the first time, many consumers aren’t turning to care at a doctor’s office.

Instead they’re turning to places that are convenient -- places like Walmart.

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Ebola
7:18 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Officials in Austin Discuss Ramped Up Efforts to Prepare for Any Local Ebola Case

Dr. Philip Huang, medical director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, spoke at a press conference on Ebola on Oct. 16, 2014.
KUT News

Austin officials say they’re ready for any potential local cases of the Ebola virus.

Starting this week, when someone in Austin and Travis County calls 911 for medical help, an operator will ask more questions than usual about symptoms and travel history so that emergency responders can be prepared.

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HB2
6:58 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Fifth Circuit Sets December Deadline for Briefs in Texas Abortion Law Lawsuit

Briefs from both sides in a Texas aborrtion law lawsuit are due by Dec. 8, 2014 before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

Some abortion clinics in Texas have started reopening, following the U.S. Supreme Court's temporary stay of parts of the state's restrictive abortion law.

"All of those 13 clinics that had been forced to close by the Fifth Circuit are now able to reopen, and specifically El Paso and McAllen," says Esha Bhandari, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is litigating a lawsuit against two provisions of the state’s 2013 abortion law.

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Ebola
5:38 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Second Texas Health Worker Tests Positive for Ebola as Official Tries to Calm Fears (Update)

Dallas Hazmat workers begin decontaminating the apartment of the second Dallas health care worker who has tested postitive for Ebola.
Dallas Police Department, @DallasPD

Update: The Texas Department of State Health Services this morning confirmed a second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has tested positive for Ebola. The worker reported a fever on Tuesday and DSHS says he or she was immediately isolated at the hospital.

No information about the health care worker's identity is being released at this time but, like the first health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to be diagnosed with Ebola, this person took care of Thomas Eric Duncan – the first Ebola patient to die in the U.S. of the virus.

DSHS officials say they've already reached out to people who made have had contact with this second health worker. Those people will be monitored for potential symptoms.

The second diagnosis of a Texas health care worker comes a day after DSHS Chief David Lakey made statements in an effort to calm fears among health workers about the possible spread of Ebola.

Original Story (Oct. 14, 7:38 p.m.): The chief of the Texas Department of State Health Services says the team in Dallas is committed to containing the Ebola virus, and he says he understands the high level of anxiety among health care workers.

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Perry Indictment
8:53 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Perry's Lawyer Confirms Governor Will Come to Court Next Hearing

Gov. Rick Perry has been ordered to attend an Oct. 31, 2014 court hearing in Austin related to his indictment.
KUT News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s lawyers were back in court today, without their client. When the scheduling hearing was over, the judge set a pretrial hearing for Friday, Oct. 31.

One issue to be discussed is whether Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum was properly sworn in, which will determine whether he’s qualified to continue as attorney pro tem, in the place of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

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Ebola
7:26 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Gov. Perry Praises Fort Hood Troops Before Liberia Deployment to Fight Against Ebola

Soldiers at Fort Hood got a visit from Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 9, 2014, before their upcoming deployment to Liberia.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

Soldiers at Fort Hood got a visit from Texas Gov. Rick Perry yesterday. Hundreds of them will deploy to Liberia soon to help in the fight against Ebola.

Gov. Perry gave soldiers in Fort Hood’s 36th Engineering Brigade a pep talk. He told them they’re making a difference for the U.S. and the world.

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Transportation
5:15 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Texas Voters Will Decide Fate of Transportation Funding Measure in November

At a Texas House Transportation Committee hearing on Oct. 8, 2014, lawmakers discussed Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment that would divert some funding to a state highway fund if voters approve it.
Liang Shi for KUT News

This November, Texas residents will vote on a state constitutional amendment known as Proposition 1. If they approve it, some money from oil and gas production taxes will go into a state transportation fund. Today, state lawmakers went over what’s at stake.

If voters approve Proposition 1, it would divert a portion of oil and gas tax money to the State Highway Fund, which would help the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation.

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Ebola
5:41 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Panel Scrutinizes Texas' Response to Ebola, Offers Insight on Future Action

The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services met on Oct. 7, 2014 to review how prepared Texas is to handle cases of infectious diseases.
KUT News

The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee convened in Austin today to home in on what Texas has done in response to having the first confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S., and what should be done next. 

People in Texas should feel confident in the state’s ability to respond to cases of infectious diseases, Kyle Janek, who leads the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told members of the Senate committee. He said he can’t promise, however, that there will be no missteps.

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HB2
4:43 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Lawyers for Texas Abortion Providers Expect SCOTUS to Hear Case

Abortion rights advocates plan to take their efforts against abortion restrictions in Texas to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

As of today, Texas women have less access to abortion, after a federal court decision yesterday lets restrictions on clinics go into effect. Abortion rights advocates now say they plan to ultimately take their effort to the nation’s highest court.

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Ebola
6:08 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Family of Dallas Ebola Patient Ordered to Stay Inside Their Home

Local law enforcement in Dallas is monitoring family members of the Dallas Ebola patient, to ensure they comply with an order to remain inside their home until at least Oct. 19, 2014.
KUT News

Four relatives of the Dallas Ebola patient are being monitored to ensure they stay inside their home and not risk spreading the disease. So far, however, they don’t have symptoms of Ebola, but their temperature will be taken twice a day.

This type of quarantine is possible because of a Texas law that allows health officials to issue a control order. It requires someone to stay home, "to ensure that we can monitor them as needed," said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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HB2
5:39 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Federal Appeals Court Allows Texas to Implement Abortion Rules

A panel of judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the portions of an abortion law that had been struck down by a lower court's federal judge in Austin will go into effect immediately.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

A panel of judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing portions of a controversial Texas abortion law to go into effect immediately. [Read a PDF version of the ruling here.]

Parts of the law were struck down by a federal judge in Austin just before they were scheduled to go into effect last month. Today's ruling allows those provisions to go into effect pending the outcome of the state's appeal.

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Ebola
5:19 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Ebola Case in Austin Unlikely, But Officials Say City's Prepared

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Director Ernesto Rodriguez speaks at a press conference on Oct. 1, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Austin officials say the city has a plan to address any cases of Ebola, now that the first confirmed case in the U.S. is up the road in Dallas.

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services says it's been ready since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began.

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Child Protective Services
5:36 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Experts Say Texas Child Protective Services Needs Help from Community Members

State Reps. Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, left, and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, are members of the Texas House Select Committee on Child Protection. The committee hosted a public hearing on Sept. 30, 2014.
KUT News

A federal commission is researching how the U.S. can reduce the number of deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Today, a member of that group told Texas lawmakers that no one state agency is to blame for these child fatalities.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is working on a report for Congress and the President on how the U.S. can fight child deaths. The commission’s Susan Dreyfus says more people like doctors, police officers and caretakers need to call Child Protective Services when they see a child at risk.

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Affordable Care Act
11:15 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Texans Signing Up for Obamacare Will Have More Choices This Year

Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke about the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace on Sept. 23, 2014 at the Brookings Institution.
Brookings Institution

People shopping for health insurance on the federal marketplace in Texas will have more options when the enrollment period begins again later this year.

Sixteen companies will offer health insurance plans in Texas through the federal marketplace this time around, when open enrollment begins Nov. 15 for coverage starting in 2015. At the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, U.S. Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke about changes in the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

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Texas
8:34 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Obamacare Plans in Texas Vary Widely in Price, Report Shows

A new study from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation finds the cost of health insurance on the new federal marketplace varies widely in Texas.
healthcare.gov

A new study from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation finds the cost of health insurance on the new federal marketplace varies widely in Texas.

Researchers found almost half of Texans eligible for a tax subsidy for health insurance said plans were still too expensive. The Episcopal Health Foundation’s president, Elena Marks, says she and her colleagues went back to see what was unaffordable to many people.

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2014 Elections
7:39 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Groups Push to Mobilize Texas' Latino Voters Before Election Day

A number of national groups have announced efforts to get eligible Latinos to the polls on Election Day 2014.
flickr.com/whiteafrican

Just about every politician and political group views Latino voters as the key to future success at the ballot box. Local, state and even several national groups are trying to mobilize Latinos across Texas this year, but will it work?

Texas is home to roughly 10 million Latinos, but their turnout in Texas ranks among the lowest in the U.S. In 2012, about 60 percent of eligible Latinos did not vote.

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