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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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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Politics
7:12 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Franchise Tax Bill Gains Final Approval From Texas House

Rep. Harvey Hilderbran answers questions from Rep. Sylvester Turner, behind the wooden abacus, during a Texas House debate on May 7, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update (2:51 p.m on May 8, 2013): The full Texas House has passed the measure, 117 to 24, after a final vote on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

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Texas
1:40 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

TX Doctor to File Lawsuit, Hopes to Overturn Affordable Care Act

Attorney Andrew Schlafly speaks during a press conference on a lawsuit against the federal government at the Capitol on May 7, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A Texas doctor is filing a lawsuit in a Houston federal court this afternoon to challenge the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare."

Dr. Steven Hotze and attorney Andrew Schlafly with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons hosted a press conference at the Capitol on May 7, 2013 to announce the lawsuit. 

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Texas
8:53 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Major Public Ed Overhaul Bill Gains Approval by Texas Senate

State Sen. Dan Patrick, left, and State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, right, hug after a long debate on House Bill 5 on May 6, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

After hours of debate and about 30 amendments, members of the Texas Senate agreed unanimously on their version of House Bill 5 – the measure that changes high school graduation requirements and drops the number of end-of-course, or STAAR, exams.

Lawmakers hugged and congratulated State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, chair of the Senate Education Committee, for passing the Senate version of HB 5. Democrats who had concerns before the bill came up on Monday said they’re pleased with the final version.

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Politics
7:38 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Pro-Gun Bills Expected to Move From Texas House to Senate

Final House passage of pro-gun bills could come on May 6, 2013, before they're sent to the Texas Senate.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

In recent days, Texas state senators have expressed opposition to passing bills this session to expand where Texans can carry their concealed handguns – places like college campuses.

But on Saturday, House members passed a number of gun-friendly bills, including one that would make it easier to bring concealed handguns into campus buildings – classrooms included. House Bill 972, by State Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, says colleges and universities are not “crime-free zones.”

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Politics
1:32 pm
Sat May 4, 2013

Slew of Concealed Handgun Bills Approved by Texas House

State Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, answers questions from fellow Texas House lawmakers on May 4, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update: Texas House members voted in favor of several bills Saturday, including House Bill 972. It allows concealed handgun license owners to carry their guns onto college campuses, with restrictions. But whether these measures move on to the Senate, depends on final passage next week.

Though House members spent all day debating bills, they saved the ones on the hot-button issue for last -- bills on concealed handguns.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Bill Spotlights Medication Given to Texas Minors in Foster Care

A bill in the Texas Legislature aims to monitor the handing out of prescriptions to minors in the Texas foster care system.
Morguefile.com

Texas health agencies report more foster children take psychotropic medication than other children in Medicaid. Experts say foster care youth need it to deal with trauma and mental disorders.

But a bill in the Texas Legislature aims to monitor the handing out of prescriptions to these minors. 

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Politics
5:10 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

CPRIT Supporters Urge TX House Panel to Approve Overhaul Bill

A Texas House panel heard testimony on why CPRIT is vital to Texans.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

So far this session, lawmakers have berated the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – or CPRIT -- for its handling of some taxpayer-funded grants.

But today, a House panel heard testimony on why the agency is vital to Texans. 

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Politics
4:06 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

TX Senator Wants Students to Have Right to Keep Guns in Cars

State Sen. Glenn Hegar, far right, responds to questions by State Sen. Brian Birdwell during a floor vote on April 30, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Texas college students are a step closer to being allowed to bring concealed handguns onto campuses.

That's after the state Senate passed a bill today that would let students, as well as faculty and staff, who have concealed carry licenses, to bring firearms onto campus. Guns would not be welcomed, however, inside classrooms or libraries.

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Politics
7:20 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Texas Bill Spotlights Minors Charged With Prostitution

A bill passing through the Texas Legislature would allow juvenile probation departments in Texas to set up programs specifically to treat minors charged with prostitution.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

One Texas senator wants to allow more counties to set up specialty courts for minors charged with prostitution. The aim is to help juveniles forced into sex trafficking. Many of these victims either end up in Texas or travel through the state along major highways. 

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, says the majority of minors involved in prostitution are sex trafficking victims.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

State Lawmaker Wants Travis County DA to Resign

The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A state lawmaker is calling for the resignation of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who’s serving a 45-day sentence in the county jail after pleading guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated.

State Representative Phil King, R-Weatherford, says if Lehmberg doesn’t resign, the state’s Public Integrity Unit should be moved from her office to the Texas Attorney General’s. The unit investigates corruption by lawmakers.

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Education
5:24 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Bill Aims to Limit Testing of Preschoolers, Kindergarteners

A lawmakers says 4- and 5-year-olds already face too many assessment tests.
Shannan Muskop, Texas Tribune

Are Texas 4- and 5-year-olds getting tested too much? State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte think so.

Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is the author of Senate Bill 1608, which would restrict the bubble-in testing that school districts and the Texas Education Agency could require for pre-K and kindergarten students.

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