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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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

In May, Texas had the highest monthly rainfall total in its history, but the hundreds of people affected by flash flooding are finding out that they may not have had the right type of insurance coverage. The Insurance Council of Texas is warning Texans that a homeowner policy doesn’t cover everything.

"A lot of people think this homeowner policy is good for flooding. It’s not," says Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the  Insurance Council of Texas. "You need to get a separate flood insurance policy. That’s going to protect you against any type of rising waters."

Meanwhile, residents of Hays, Harris and Van Zandt Counties may be eligible for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Residents can register online at disasterassistance.gov.

KUT News

Some Texans may have benefited more than others from the Affordable Care Act, according to research by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the rate of uninsured Hispanics has dropped 38 percent. As of March this year, less than a quarter of Hispanics still didn't have health insurance.

Erika Rich/Texas Tribune

Update, May 30, 2015:

An open carry bill was approved by the Texas Legislature on Friday, and the measure now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature.

Texas is one of few states where open carry is prohibited, but the bill approved by state lawmakers on Friday would change that. License holders would be allowed to openly carry in a hip or shoulder holster.

Right now, Texans can only carry concealed handguns.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

We’ve been reporting on the damage caused to communities like San Marcos and Wimberley after record flooding along the Blanco River.

Since then, volunteers have come out in force to help people dealing with the aftermath.

At a former Target in San Marcos, instead of aisle after aisle of merchandise, table after table is covered in donations. Diane Insley, the coordinator at this donation center, lists off all of the donations they have.

"Cleaning supplies, mops, tools to rip out sheet rock that’s been damaged. We also have basic food, non perishable food items, a lot of bottled water, some brand new clothing, some basic shoes and then we have baby items, personal hygiene, deodorant soaps, Clorox bleach, laundry detergent...," she points out. 

Liang Shi/KUT News

Under a measure passed by the Texas House and Senate (SJR 52), statewide office-holders would be able to live outside of Austin — but voters will have a say first.

Since 1876, the Texas Constitution has required certain statewide officials to live in the state capital, and that hasn’t changed. On Wednesday, however, the Texas House approved a measure that would allow statewide officials to live somewhere other than Austin if they want to. While they would likely reside in Austin during lawmaking sessions, they wouldn't have to keep a permanent residence in Travis County for the duration of their four-year terms.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A bill (House Bill 3994) that would add restrictions to how minors can bypass the state’s parental consent law to get an abortion was approved by the Texas Senate today.

What’s called the judicial bypass bill received plenty of roadblocks from opponents, however. 

Before the bill was even brought up for a vote, opponents in the Senate had hours’ worth of questions about what the bill would require a minor and a judge to do.

Morguefile/flickr

Religious objections to gay marriage would be protected from lawsuits, if a bill passed by the Texas House becomes law.

It got a first OK Thursday by the House and is expected to get final passage today. 

Nathan Bernier/KUT

A waiver program that provides billions of dollars for Texas hospitals expires next year, and a panel of House lawmakers is asking state health officials if they have a Plan B. 

The 1115 Medicaid transformation waiver, among other things, gives billions in federal dollars to Texas hospitals that provide care for patients who don't have health insurance.  

In 2013, Texas spent almost $4 billion in what's called "uncompensated care" for low-income Texans.

flickr.com/xomiele

On Wednesday, Texas Senators passed a bill (SB 1252) that would create an inter-state southern border compact — a group of states that would share resources to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the bill.

It didn't pass, however, before Democrats and Republicans brought up their differences on the need for border security. 

flickr via myloonyland

Teens in Travis County say they’re not getting taught about safe sex, and parents say they don’t know how to talk to their kids about it, according to a new report from the University of Texas and the Healthy Youth Partnership. [Read a PDF version of the report here.]

Travis County, and Texas as a whole,  have higher teen birth rates than the country overall, which the new report attributes to teens receiving misinformation about birth control, an embarrassment associated with buying condoms and peer pressure surrounding sex.

KUT News

The Texas Senate has approved a bill, SB 1735,  that would scale back free tuition benefits given to some military veterans and their dependents. Lawmakers expanded eligibility for the law, known as the Hazlewood Act, in 2009, but under the new bill it would be scaled back again.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), a veteran himself, says he wrote the bill because public institutions can’t afford to cover everyone who qualifies, so the state has to cut back to save the program for future veterans.

msjacoby/flickr

On Tuesday, the Texas Senate tentatively passed a bill that would prohibit abortion coverage under many health insurance plans. It could get final approval today.

The bill would only allow coverage for abortions in cases where there’s a medical emergency. State Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) says his measure gives Texans who don’t support abortion the choice not to pay for others to get the procedure.

Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

A bill that would override local fracking bans in Texas was approved by members of the House, after several hours of debate. 

The bill is aimed at blocking cities from banning activities like hydraulic fracturing. Last year, voters in the city of Denton approved a ban on fracking in their city limits.

State Rep. Drew Darby, a Republican from San Angelo and the bill's author, says it’s intended to preserve the state government’s right to regulate oil and gas activity.

Sarah Montgomery for KUT

John Legend is well-known for his music. He’s won Grammys and, most recently, he and Chicago rapper Common won an Academy Award for the original song “Glory” from the film Selma. During his acceptance speech, Legend used the podium to draw attention to the high incarceration rate in the U.S.

Yesterday, he came to the Texas Capitol to continue that advocacy and kick off a national campaign called Free America, which aims to drop the country’s incarceration rate.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

When Marlise Muñoz was hospitalized in 2013 with a pulmonary embolism, she was 14 weeks pregnant. Though she had told her family that she never wanted to be on life support, doctors at a Fort Worth hospital kept her on life support until a judge ruled that because she was brain dead, the medical team could take her off of the machines.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

On a vote of 30-1, the Texas Senate has passed a two-year budget that would spend more than $211 billion dollars on everything from education and healthcare to border security, and would include cuts to property and business taxes. 

The debate didn’t take nearly as long as the 18 hours on the House side, but Democrats did voice their opposition. State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), the only member to vote against the budget bill, criticized the $811 million that would go to policing the border.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

The Texas House lawmaker in charge of public education has unveiled a plan that he says answers the question: What to do about school finance?

That question has been looming over Texas lawmakers since 2011, when more than 600 school districts sued the state over billions of dollars in cuts to school funding. 

KUT News

Hispanic evangelicals in Texas have common ground with some conservative Texas lawmakers on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. When it comes to a measure known as the sanctuary cities bill, however, evangelicals say their faith stops them from supporting the measure.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

At the Capitol Wednesday, advocates for people with disabilities showed up in force to draw attention to how much home care attendants earn, which isn't much more than minimum wage.

The chants were hard to ignore at the rotunda. Home care attendants came to ask Texas lawmakers to raise their minimum wage, since in the state, caregivers get a minimum of $7.86 an hour.

At the rotunda, Sarah Watkins, who is in a wheelchair, said she has a tough time keeping a caregiver for long.

KUT News

At 5:39 a.m. Wednesday, the Texas House gave preliminary approval of its state budget bill for 2016-2017.

House lawmakers spent nearly 18 hours going through amendments that would add or take away spending, hot button issues included, and passed the budget on a vote of 141-5.

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