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. 

Pages

Environment
7:21 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

What Will Austin's Stage 3 Water Restrictions Look Like?

dasroofless/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/roofless/5779444286/

No end in sight to the drought, now affecting almost all of Texas. Austin has been under Stage 2 water restrictions since last summer. What do we face from State 3?

This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that less than two percent of Texas is not experiencing drought conditions. The rest of the state has worsened. Here in Austin, chances of rain over the next five days hover between 20 to 40 percent. Experts doubt that will amount to much. Still, water restrictions here will stay at stage 2 … for now.

Read more
Education
7:44 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Texas Education Experts Weigh Proposals' Impact on Students

Bills passing through the Texas Legislature stir debate on impact to students, especially minorities.
flickr.com/alamosbasement

Story as it aired on KUT News 90.5 FM

The Texas Legislature is debating bills intended to help more students graduate from high school, by reducing the emphasis on standardized tests and increasing the emphasis on the kinds of education they need to be productive members of the workforce.  

This week, the House passed House Bill 5, which would let high school students take a path to college or take a route intended to lead them more quickly to work. The bill also would drop the number of STAAR exams from 15 to 5.

Read more
Education
7:36 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Bill Would Train Teachers to Spot Mental Illness

A lawmaker's initiative would address the problem of mentally ill students.
Erik Reyna, KUT News

A state lawmaker says Texas students are grappling with mental illness, but not all teachers, counselors and principals know how to recognize the signs. So the lawmaker, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is backing a mental health bill that he says would encourage educators in more than 1,100 school districts to get the necessary training.

Read more
Education
5:04 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Legislature Tackles Competing Education Bills

Both chambers' bills aim to address the dropout rate in Texas.
Lizzie Chen, KUT News

Changing requirements at Texas high schools is a hot topic at the Capitol. The House has passed its version. Next week, it’s the Senate’s turn.

Both the House and Senate bills would increase flexibility for public high school students in the state. This week, lawmakers passed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s House Bill 5. Aycock, R-Killeen, heads the House Public Education Committee. His bill addresses course requirements and drops the number of STAAR exams from 15 to five, among other changes.

Read more
Politics
7:06 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Texas House Passes Public Education Requirements Bill

Texas House lawmakers passed a public education overhaul bill.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News.

After roughly 9 hours of debate, Texas House lawmakers passed a bill that would change the requirements high students must meet in order to graduate. The House voted 145 to 2 in favor of the legislation authored by Republican State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock

Lawmakers debated amendments, and amendments to amendments, on the House floor Tuesday, as they decided the public education reform bill they’d send on to the Senate.

Read more
Politics
7:06 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Could Spanish-Language Legislative Sites Boost Civic Engagement?

The Texas Senate has a Spanish-language website.
KUT News

Story as it aired on KUT News 90.5 FM

In a U.S. Census Bureau survey of the nearly seven million Spanish speakers in Texas, almost three million speak English “less than very well.”

State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) has a bill that would translate Texas legislative information into Spanish in what he calls an effort to boost civic engagement.

Read more
Health
7:56 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Concern Grows as Obesity Soars Among Texas Latinos

From left to right: Mary Bastos, Alain Guerra and Marispy Fitzpatrick taught Zumba dance to dozens of people at a public event at the Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin on March 23, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Latinos are Texas’ fastest-growing population group. And they are grappling with soaring obesity rates. According to the Department of State Health Services, almost 40 percent of Hispanics are obese. To combat the health crisis, cities as well as state lawmakers are aiming to get Latinos exercising and eating healthier.

The Texas State Demographer’s office expects that by 2030, nearly six million Latinos will be obese. That number could soar to almost nine and a half million by 2040. All that adds up to a looming health crisis, with potentially high costs for the state.

Read more
Education
5:07 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Should School Ratings Take At-Risk Students Into Account?

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte wants schools with lots of former dropouts to get extra credit.
KUT News

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that less than 85 percent of the students in the class of 2010 graduated. At a hearing Thursday in the Texas Senate, lawmakers heard the case for better tracking students who end up back in school.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, a member of the Senate Public Education Committee, told members that even though high school graduation rates in Texas are improving, some schools aren’t getting credit for their part in those improvements. She was talking about schools that enroll dropouts and give students a high school diploma if they earn their credits and meet the requirements.

Read more
Politics
5:22 am
Thu March 21, 2013

Legislature Talks Jobs for Vets

A Senate committee is looking at measures to help returning vets make the transition to civilian life.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Unemployment among U.S. veterans fell in 2012 but is still higher than the rest of the workforce. Two bills dealing with vets and employment are before the Texas Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee. One would help veterans find work in Texas agencies; the other would ensure they could take time off from work.

Both bills are aimed at reintegrating veterans into civilian life and jobs.

Read more
2013 Legislative Session
1:32 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Lawmaker Pushes for More Funds to Address Domestic Violence

Thousands of postcards from Texans across the state in support of family violence programs funding made their way to lawmakers at the Capitol Wednesday. Purple is a color usually used for family violence awareness.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) wants to restore some state funding of domestic violence-related services.

Last legislative session, lawmakers cut funding for Batterer Intervention and Prevention Programs or "BIPP" in half. It went from $2.5 million to $1.25 million.

General funding for main domestic violence services like shelters is at about $51 million.

Read more
2013 Legislative Session
1:18 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Bill Would Make DNA Testing Mandatory in Death Penalty Cases

Sen. Robert Duncan (L) and Sen. Ellis joined Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott at a press conference on DNA testing in death penalty cases.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Some officials in Texas – including Attorney General Greg Abbott – want to change how the state handles DNA evidence.

Abbott says he thinks testing on DNA evidence should happen before a death penalty case goes to trial.

"If you’re innocent, you’re going to find out that your exoneration will come sooner," Abbott said. "If you are guilty, justice will be more swift and more certain."

Read more
2013 Legislative Session
7:26 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Texas Lawmakers Aim to Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking

Last year, Texas officials arrested 179 people for human trafficking.
Liang Shi, KUT News

Each year human traffickers force thousands of people into slave-like conditions. Several major highways in Texas make the state a hub for human traffickers.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) authored a bill that she hopes will deter people from forcing others into involuntary labor or services – often including prostitution.

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
12:23 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Bill Would Change Rules for Non-English Mail-In Ballots

Lawmakers may change voting by mail by making multi-language ballots optional instead of the default option.
flickr.com/miikka_skaffari

Lawmakers are looking at a bill today that would change the requirements for mail-in ballots in Harris County. The county would no longer need to send out ballots in a language other than English, unless it’s requested by the voter.

The Harris County clerk says it costs a lot to print and send mail-in ballots to eligible voters. That’s because the county must print ballots in four languages: English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Read more
Politics
6:26 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Lawmakers, Public Debate Guns on Campus

Gun legislation drawing comments and criticism
Liang Shi for KUT

Students, parents and police testified Thursday on four bills that would allow some people to carry guns onto college campuses in Texas.

People crammed into a room at the Capitol to testify before the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. One of the bills the committee is considering would allow anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry a weapon at a public university. 

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:59 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Bill Would Stop Cops From Drawing Blood After DWI Stops

As it is now, police officers can draw blood from a DWI suspect if they have training.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

In Texas, if a motorist suspected of drunk driving refuses a breath test, a police officer can get a search warrant to draw a blood sample.

A few police departments in the state allow trained officers to draw the blood themselves. Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Spring, has introduced a bill that would require that medical professionals draw blood. She says officers should focus on patrolling streets.

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:35 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Should Pols Running for Higher Office Pay Their Own Security?

A Michigan crowd watches Gov. Rick Perry during his presidential campaign. Perry had the state pay for his security as he traveled the country campaigning.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Future presidential candidates from Texas may have to foot the bill for their own security on the campaign trail.

Gov. Rick Perry’s unsuccessful run at the White House last year cost taxpayers $3.7 million. And state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, said at a House committee meeting today that the cost of non-state-related security is a burden to Texans.

Read more
Politics
8:25 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Challenging Work Standards for Texas Hotel Housekeepers

Some people in the hotel industry say the requirements outlined in the Texas bill would be bad for business.
flickr.com/bwalsh

Texas lawmakers are looking at a bill that would set new standards for hotel housekeeping workers. The bill’s author says the workers are not getting fair treatment, but some in the hotel industry disagree.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) says if Texas hotels can prove housekeepers earn minimum wage, she’ll drop her bill. But, she says, she’s skeptical they can.

Read more
Education
7:17 am
Thu March 7, 2013

Veterans Education Requirements Putting Strain on Texas Colleges?

UT-Austin's Student Veterans Services guides veterans through the benefits of the Hazelwood Act.
Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Colleges and universities in Texas are struggling to pay for the tuition benefits they give to qualifying veterans and their dependents as part of a program called the Hazlewood Act.

As the number of veterans rises, higher education leaders say their institutions need help tackling the costs.

“We continuously get pulled at not to increase tuition. We don’t want to increase tuition. But those are the issues that we follow," Kenth Hance, Texas Tech University Systems Chancellor, says.

Read more

Pages