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
4:39 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

TX Senate Bill on College Campus Concealed Carry Dies This Session

A Texas Senate bill that would let students carry concealed handguns on college campuses is not moving forward this legislative session.
Texas Tribune

A Texas Senate bill that would let students carry concealed handguns on college campuses is dead this legislative session, with one senator saying it’s time for a “cooling off” period. 

The chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee says he gets why some want to legalize concealed carry on college campuses. Students are doing it illegally, he says.

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Transportation
12:40 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Bill Against Texting While Driving Makes Way to Senate Panel

Kathy Bond of Fort Worth holds a picture of her daughter, Katrina Bond, at the Capitol on April 24, 2013. Katrina Bond died in 2011 from an accident allegedly involving texting while driving.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Yesterday, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released results of its study that suggests voice-to-text phone apps or voice devices used in the car are as dangerous as texting and driving. 

Today, lawmakers in the Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony related to a bill by State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, that would make it a statewide offense to text and drive.

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Politics
5:11 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Bill on Texas Solution to Medicaid Expansion Moves Forward

A bill approved today by a Texas House committee would help insure the roughly 6 million Texas residents who don’t have coverage.
Nathan Bernier, KUT

A bill approved today by a Texas House committee would help insure the roughly 6 million Texas residents who don’t have coverage, but not in the way envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act.

State Rep.  John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says his bill is what he calls a “Texas” solution to the health insurance gap. He adamantly says he’s not for Medicaid expansion.

"To put a million and a half people into the current Medicaid program and expect we’re going to be able to serve those people with a very fragile provider network is just totally wrong," Zerwas said.

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Politics
11:59 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Texas Lawmakers Push for Exoneration Commission Bill

Billy Smith of Dallas, an exoneree, speaks in favor of HB 166 on April 22, 2013 at the Capitol.
Veronica Zaragovia

On Tuesday, the Texas House will vote on HB 166, a bill that would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission.

This so-called innocence commission would investigate past exoneration cases to find out why the wrongful conviction happened in the first place. The group would not intervene in pending cases or open cases without an exoneration. 

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Politics
7:12 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Weak TX Drug Court Oversight Worries Lawmakers, Advocates

Texas lawmakers are weighing a bill on regulation of specialty courts in the state.
morguefile.com

Texas lawmakers may shore up a little-known system of courts, called specialty courts.  Voices on both the left and the right are saying that these courts are working — benefiting the state despite being underfunded, uncounted and, at the state level, unmanaged. 

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Texas
6:29 am
Fri April 19, 2013

Austin Runners Lace Up Sneakers for Boston Marathon Victims

Friends Erin McGann and Bonnie Yesian embrace at a candlelight vigil for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Bonnie ran the marathon and was not far from the finish line when the bombs went off.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Though most of the hundreds of people who turned out regularly go running with their groups, Thursday night’s event was different.

Participants and organizers say at least 600 people RSVP’d on Facebook. Scores of neon-dressed participants gathered at around 8 p.m. in the parking lot near Austin High School on Cesar Chavez.

Some wore their marathon jackets and numbers. Many people hugged, held hands, waved across the parking lot to one another and several wiped away tears.

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Politics
7:56 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Bill on Solitary Confinement Study Approved by Texas Senate Panel

Christopher Scott of Dallas spent about a year in solitary confinement during nearly 13 years in prison. He's since been exonerated.
Veronica Zaragovia

More than 5 percent of the total prison population in Texas is in solitary confinement. That’ s compared to about 2 percent nationally.

But one Texas Senator says too little is known about the conditions of these prisoners, especially those who may have been diagnosed with mental health or cognitive issues. SB 1003 passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and goes to the Senate floor.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Bill Would Assess Condition of Inmates in Solitary Confinement

About 2,000 inmates may have mental illness or developmental disability. A Senate bill aims to learn more.
Liang Shi for KUT

More than 5 percent of the prison population in Texas is in solitary confinement, more than double the 2 percent national average. But one state senator says too little is known about the condition of these prisoners, especially those who may have been diagnosed with mental health or cognitive problems.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was considering the bill Wednesday afternoon.

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Education
6:02 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

Senate Panel Passes Its Version of House Education Overhaul Bill

Round Rock Superintendent Jesús Chávez testifies during a Senate Education Committee hearing on April 16, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia

Last month the Texas House passed its education reform bill – HB 5. Today members of the Senate Education Committee took the measure up and began the process of hammering out differences between the House and Senate on the future of education in Texas. 

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
7:43 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Grandparental Rights Bill Up for Committee Debate at Capitol

A Texas bill that would increase the number of people who have a say over how a child is raised is expected to spark heated debate.
flickr.com/bowtoo

At the Capitol, House Judiciary Committee members will debate a bill that would increase the number of people who have a say over how a child is raised in Texas.

The bill sparking debate is HB 393, filed by State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.  Thompson’s bill would expand the number of people who can sue for visitation rights if they believe a child is being raised in a way that puts his or her well-being at risk. 

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Education
7:52 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Bonds Bill Would Help Texas Universities' Construction Costs

Texas lawmakers are considering a tuition revenue bond bill that would approve billions for new buildings at public universities.
Photo by KUT News.

The last time the Texas Legislature approved construction expenses for public universities and community colleges was in 2006. This session, lawmakers are considering a tuition revenue bond bill that would approve billions for new buildings. 

University administrators told lawmakers they need millions of dollars for construction projects on their space-strapped campuses. They cited skyrocketing student enrollment numbers, aging buildings and new research projects as reasons to lay the bricks and mortar.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:05 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Amendment Would Provide Money for Roads and Water

Voters would need to sign off on the transfer from the Rainy Day Fund.
Daniel Reese

A plan approved today by the Texas Senate Finance Committee would spend a lot of money on water and road projects if Texas voters give the go-ahead.

A constitutional amendment proposed by committee chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would tap into the Rainy Day Fund, which is money mostly from the state’s gas and oil tax revenues, for transportation and water projects.

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Politics
6:06 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

Texas Bill Would Ban Abortion at 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

House lawmakers are weighing a bill that would make abortions illegal at 20 weeks of pregnancy and beyond.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/msjacoby

Texas requires doctors to show a woman who chooses abortion a sonogram of the fetus and hear the heartbeat. State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) wants to ban abortions altogether 20 weeks into the pregnancy and beyond.

Carol Everett of the Women’s Wellness Coalition of Texas supports the measure. She said she's witnessed a fetus move away from the operation tools.

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Politics
5:25 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

Bill on Link Between Abortion, Breast Cancer Stirs Debate

A bill on the alleged link between abortions and the risk of breast cancer is being considered by lawmakers.
Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

State law requires Texas physicians to inform women having an abortion that the operation may increase their risk of breast cancer.

But State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), a survivor of the disease, wants to stop the mandate through a bill she’s authored.

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2013 Legislative Session
6:19 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Bill Would Change DNA Testing Procedures in Death Penalty Cases (Updated)

A bill from Sen. Rodney Ellis would require the state to pay for DNA testing before capital punishment cases go to trial.
Veronica Zaragovia

Update: A Texas Senate committee passed a bill last night that would require DNA testing of evidence in cases involving the death penalty.

The proposal will now go to the full senate for a vote.

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Politics
4:14 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Texas Animal Adoption Bill Could Ruffle Pet Owners' Feathers

Identifying information of anyone in Texas who adopts an animal at a municipal shelter is public. These dogs are up for adoption at the Austin Animal Center.
Veronica Zaragovia

Between 20-30,000 animals go through Texas animal shelters each year. When someone adopts a pet, his or her contact information becomes public.

But that would change under a bill considered today by Texas House lawmakers. 

The bill, HB 2471, authored by State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would make confidential any identifying information someone gives when adopting a pet at a municipal animal center.

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Politics
8:25 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Texas House, Senate to Iron Out Budget Differences

Lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate will begin to work out differing views on the budget.
Muliadi Soenaryo via Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers in the House and Senate will soon begin working out differences between their budgets. 

The longest and probably most heated debate over the budget happened last Thursday. That’s when the House passed its amended version of the state spending plan for the next two years.

Every session, House and Senate members disagree on how much to spend and which line item should get how much funding. Kate Alexander said this session will be no different.

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Politics
6:05 am
Fri April 5, 2013

House Passes Budget, Votes Against School Vouchers (Update)

The House debated hundreds of possible changes to the budget bill.
KUT News

Update: The debate over the budget in the Texas House lasted well into the night. But it was short and relatively drama-free when compared to sessions past. The budget bill passed 135 to 12.

The two-year budget boosts state spending. It includes small raises for state employees and spares state parks from being closed.

By the end, lawmakers had agreed on what would go into the $93.5 billion state spending plan – $2.5 billion will go back into the public school funding formula after nearly $5 billion was cut in 2011.

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Health
7:46 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

CPRIT Foundation to Close in 60 Days

Texas Tribune

  The private foundation that’s given financial support to the state’s troubled cancer-fighting agency says it’s shutting down.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – known as CPRIT – has its own problems. The agency is being investigated for its handling of some taxpayer-funded grants.

On Tuesday, though, it was the private foundation formed to supplement the salaries of CPRIT’s top executives that brought the wrath of state lawmakers.

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Politics
7:15 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Lawmakers' Divide on Medicaid Expansion Impacts Texans

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro spoke during a press conference to express support for Medicaid expansion in Texas.
Filipa Rodrigues

While Gov. Rick Perry spoke early in the day, protesters with the Texas Organizing Project shouted slogans in support of Medicaid expansion.

Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz lined up alongside the Governor to speak against Medicaid expansion. Sen. Cornyn said expanding Medicaid rolls in Texas could add to the national deficit, leaving Texas alone to handle costs.

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