Veronica Zaragovia

State Reporter

Veronica Zaragovia reports on state government for KUT News, and gets to team up with an extraordinary group of KUT journalists on how legislation affects the people of Texas. She's reported as a legislative relief news person with the Associated Press in South Dakota and has worked as a freelancer and intern with  the Agence France Presse, TIME, WDET Detroit public radio and PBS NewsHour, among others. She's dedicated much of her adult life to traveling, learning languages and drinking iced coffee. 

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Politics
8:09 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Budget Breakdown: What Texas Lawmakers Approved

State Rep. Jim Pitts, chief budget writer in the House, left, and House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel, right, are surrounded by House members during discussion over a budget-related measure on May 25, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Amid all the other items on the agenda, the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature had as its primary task: passing a budget bill. Last Sunday, lawmakers praised the budget deal they'd pass before midnight. State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is the House’s chief budget writer.

"By doing all the good things that are in this budget…we are still able to increase the state budget by a percentage of less than one percent per year with adjusted dollars," Rep. Pitts said.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Questions Arise on Alternative Maps as Special Session Begins

House Speaker Joe Straus, left, and House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel mark the end of the 83rd legislative session on May 27, 2013, a day before the special began.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Members of the Texas House were gaveled in this morning for the first full day of a special session on redistricting, after the Senate started last night. 

Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers to a 30-day session Monday evening specifically to address the Texas House, Senate and Congressional maps. These were drawn by federal judges and used in the 2012 elections. A federal court ruled that maps drawn by Texas lawmakers in 2011 didn’t comply with the Voting Rights Act.

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Politics
1:47 am
Mon May 27, 2013

As Final Hour Approaches, 83rd Legislature Begins Winding Down

State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, sits back briefly near the end of the session's penultimate day, May 26, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The legislative session ends today – meaning lawmakers had a late final night of debating and voting on bills before today's mostly ceremonial end. Lawmakers did finally pass the one bill they’re constitutionally required to -- the state budget.

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Politics
3:13 pm
Sat May 25, 2013

Saturday Update: Legislature Honors Fallen Soldiers, Continues Last-Minute Work on Bills

Gov. Rick Perry addresses a joint session of the Texas Legislature to honor fallen members of the military on May 25, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Members of the Texas House and Senate are at their desks this afternoon as the Legislature continues to work in the final days of the 83rd session. 

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says they expect to bring up Senate Bill 1, the budget bill, on Sunday. He was one of the House members who worked with Senators in the conference committee on SB 1.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Texas Lawmakers Begin to Iron Out Differences on Spending Bill

Gov. Perry visited the Texas House on May 24, 2013, but refused to comment on the budget-related bills of this session.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House have expressed concern over the version of the supplemental spending bill that came out of the Senate on Wednesday. 

The contentious measure is House Bill 1025. Among its provisions, it appropriates roughly $4 billion for expenses from the rainy day fund, a pot of money that conservatives would prefer not to tap as much. It's considered the state's savings account, generated mostly from oil and gas tax revenues.

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Education
4:58 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

CSCOPE to Cease Making Lesson Plans for Texas Public Schools

Dr. Kyle Wargo, member of CSCOPE's governing board, speaks at a Capitol press conference on May 20, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update: In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill says CSCOPE's decision to remove all lessons plans from its website is a "recognition of the concerns raised by Texas parents, State Board of Education members and legislators. 

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Health
9:00 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Protesters Get Unexpected Medicaid Meeting with Gov. Perry

Connie Paredes with the Texas Organizing Project spoke to the media after she had a conversation with Gov. Rick Perry about Medicaid expansion on May 22, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Health care protestors who interrupted Gov. Rick Perry during a speech yesterday afternoon were surprised that he offered to meet with them in exchange for letting him continue his talk.   

Gov. Perry has called Medicaid “broken” and a “fool’s errand.” Despite his adamant stance against expanding the entitlement program, at least 20 protesters with the Texas Organizing Project wanted to discuss it with him.

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Politics
6:55 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Texas Senator Says Campus Carry Bill Has Slim Survival Chance

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a sponsor of a House campus carry bill, said Senate Democrats won't give him the votes he needs to pass the measure as of May 22, 2013.
Photo by kcdsTM http://www.flickr.com/photos/kcdstm/2220683741/

Update (May 23, 2013): A slew of gun bills that passed out of the House earlier this month did not make it to the Senate floor by the deadline to consider all House bills.

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Politics
2:55 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Bill on Drug Testing of State Aid Recipients Gets Initial Approval

Texas House lawmakers tentatively passed a bill that would require drug testing of people getting unemployment benefits.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update (May 25, 2013):  
Both the House and Senate have passed this bill, sending it to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for his approval.


Original story:
The Texas House split on a couple of bills that would drug test recipients of state aid. A midnight deadline passed before lawmakers could vote on a bill that would drug test recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

But earlier in the day lawmakers did pass testing for unemployment benefits.

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Politics
7:36 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Texas Ethics Commission Bill Gets Initial House Approval

Members of the Texas House passed a bill that makes changes to the Texas Ethics Commission, among other provisions.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

State lawmakers had a lengthy debate on the House floor Monday when they took up, and passed, a Senate bill that would make changes to a key commission. One that determines the rules state officials must follow. 

The measure by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would make changes to the Texas Ethics Commission, which provides rulemaking and oversight for state officials, like lawmakers, executives and judges, as well as lobbyists and state agency employees.

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Politics
6:33 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Budget Bill Gets Tentative Approval from Texas Lawmakers

A partial view of the budget bill conference committee on May 17, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Lawmakers left a vote on the toughest and most important bill to the week's end. At the start of today, Democrats remained unhappy with funding for public education.

"They did an increase in the budget for the [Texas School for the Blind and Texas School for the Deaf]. Well you can’t count that as new money in the budget towards public education. So it’s just a sham of a proposal in my judgment."

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Politics
5:58 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Texas Term Limits Bill Fails

Gov. Rick Perry hugs State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, during his rare visit to the House floor on May 13, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia

A Republican state senator wants Texas to limit the terms of elected officials like the governor and the attorney general. His bill has made it from the Senate to the Texas House floor, but will it head for the Governor’s desk? 

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Politics
4:35 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Texas Democrats See Future in Mobilizing Latino Turnout

Latinos in Texas generally don't make their numbers felt at the polls.
flickr.com/buckygail

No one doubts the growth of the Latino electorate in Texas. But its turnout at the polls is lower than in the rest of the country, leading some to question how to change that. Especially Democrats who say this is how to turn Texas blue.

State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, and State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, joined Julie Martinez Ortega of PAC Plus to discuss the challenge at a news conference today.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
8:47 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Listen: Explosive Testimony at Hearing on TX Exoneration Board

Cory Session, right, brother of wrongfully convicted and exonerated Texan Timothy Cole, testifies during a committee hearing on May 14, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

What began as testimony on a bill to create an exoneration review commission ended with an angry outburst from the brother of Timothy Cole, one of Texas’ most well-known wrongfully convicted people.

Timothy Cole died in prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence for a rape he did not commit. He was incarcerated when he died, and became the first posthumously exonerated person in Texas.

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Politics
7:34 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Criminal Justice Panel Sends Campus Carry Bill to Texas Senate

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, voted against a Texas House campus carry bill on May 14, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A campus carry bill declared dead earlier in the Texas legislative session has gotten a second life after a Senate committee gave it a hearing on May 14.

The packed room at the Capitol seemed familiar Tuesday – many testifying against a bill that would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on college campuses.

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Politics
7:25 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Michael Morton Act Heads for Gov. Perry's Desk

Michael Morton's case inspired two bills passed tentatively by the Texas House on May 13, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

Update: The Texas House gave final passage to the bill on May 14, 2013, officially sending it to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.


Original version:
The Texas House has voted to pass bills that would grant more rights to people when they’re suspected and even convicted of crimes. The votes took place on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brady vs. Maryland ruling, which established a suspect’s right to access evidence against him or her. 

Michael Morton spent about 25 years behind bars, wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. 

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:43 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Bill Debate Pits Military Families Against Low-Income Ones

State Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, at the podium, speaks on his bill, HB 690, during a floor debate on May 10, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A seemingly uncontroversial bill to help Texas colleges pay for veterans’ tuition got House members worked up today over who needs more dollars -- need-based students or military heroes?

House Bill 690 by State Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, would allow the Higher Education Coordinating Board to divvy up state money, set aside to fund the Hazlewood legacy program. It pays for the tuition benefit of certain veterans and their dependents.

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Texas
7:11 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Latinos May Need More Than a 'Miracle' to Prosper in Texas

Latino unemployment in the U.S. is higher than the national average, though in Texas, Latinos may have more low-wage opportunities. Pictured here a woman sells food at the Historic Market Square in San Antonio.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

President Obama brought a message of economic recovery when he visited Austin yesterday, the first stop in his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.” Latinos in the U.S., however, are trailing behind the national average in unemployment. So how are they’re doing when it comes to finding work in the home of the “Texas miracle?"

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Politics
6:22 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

House Gives Initial OK to Flat-Dollar Homestead Exemption Bill

Texas homeowners could get tax relief if a bill on homestead exemptions becomes law.
Courtesy of heatheronhertravels.com

Cities and counties would have one more tool to give tax breaks to Texas homeowners if a bill by an Austin lawmaker becomes law.

HJR 138 by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would require voters to approve it in November. That’s because it would amend the Texas Constitution, which allows local governments like cities and counties to give up to a 20 percent homestead exemption. This bill would let them give a flat-dollar exemption, too, an option that only school districts in Texas have.

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Politics
2:33 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Payday Lending Reform Bill Stalls in Texas House Committee

State Rep. Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio, discusses a stalled payday lending reform bill at a press conference May 8, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A Texas lawmaker told the media this morning he's not ready to give up the fight to reform so-called payday and auto-title lending. These are typically low-dollar, high-interest loans.

State Rep. Mike Villareal, D-San Antonio, chairs the House Investments and Financial Services Committee, where the latest version of the bill is stuck. He said he's the sole member of the panel who's solidly behind the bill, and presently three members stand against it. The panel has seven members and needs to pass out of Investments and Financial Services in order to reach the House floor. 

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