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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Nathan Bernier/KUT News

The Texas Senate is moving forward with a proposal to assign letter grades to Texas public schools.

Supporters say this bill would boost failing schools, while opponents say these grades will stigmatize schools and create more of a problem. 

State Sen. Larry Taylor, a Friendswood Republican, says his bill, SB 6, would empower parents. They’d have more information about how their children’s schools are doing once their school gets an A through F grade based on standardized test scores.

Courtesy of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant

On Wednesday, a panel of House lawmakers discussed a proposal to change how marriage licenses are issued in Texas, giving that power to one appointed official: the Secretary of State.

The bill comes after the Travis County clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple last month, after being ordered to do so by a judge.

State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) says his bill would take away the ability of the state’s 254 county clerks to issue marriage licenses, instead giving that power only to the Secretary of State.

KUT News

Mary Lou Brown has felt so lonely living in Austin. Since her diagnosis with lupus in 2003, she hasn’t found any support groups for people with the disease. She gets a lot of help from her husband and son, but she says no one gets what it’s like to be in pain all day long.

"[The pain] goes from your heel all the way to the scalp, where no one can touch you," Brown says.

Most of us have an immune system that protects us from germs. But if you have lupus, your immune system can’t tell the difference between the bad guys and healthy tissue, so it attacks the healthy tissue, causing inflammation and pain.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

During the South by Southwest Interactive conference last year, only a handful of panels were on Latinos in tech, and those panels were held at an isolated Holiday Inn, nowhere near the convention center downtown.

This year, the panels on Latinos have stretched across a number of days, and all of them have been inside the bustling convention center. We spent some time with people at South by Southwest who identify as Latino to hear about their experience at the conference this year.  Listen to their voices below. 

KUT News

The signup period to buy an Obamacare plan for 2015 ended last month, but now, there’s a separate window to sign up for a very specific group of people.

Elizabeth Colvin, the director of nonprofit Insure Central Texas, which helps people with the health insurance application process, says this is only for people who are penalized on their 2014 tax return for being uninsured last year.

KUT News

The case of Marlise Muñoz made national headlines when her family sued a Fort Worth hospital to take her off life support.

She was kept on machines for roughly two months, but doctors couldn’t remove her because she was pregnant. This case is now in the spotlight again, but this time at the Texas Capitol. 

KUT News

As the legislative session picks up steam, dozens of people from across the state came to a rally on the Capitol steps Thursday to show support for Medicaid expansion in Texas under the Affordable Care Act.

Speakers included Texas residents and business community leaders like the president of the Texas Hospital Association and chambers of commerce. 

KUT News

In a challenge to the Affordable Care Act heard recently by the Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, the argument was that people who bought health coverage on a federal exchange, like the one in Texas, cannot qualify for a tax credit to make the monthly premium cheaper. That's because of wording in the health care law that challengers of the legislation say only allows the IRS to give tax credits to people on a state exchange.

While that battle plays out in Washington, the federal government has released numbers this week showing how many people are receiving tax credits.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

A state senator says Texas has "gaping holes" in the laws on contracting. To change that, a panel of lawmakers is reviewing a bill from State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would overhaul how billions of dollars in state funding are awarded.

Under the bill, the more money involved in a state agency contract, the more competitive bids required before signing a deal. Agencies would have to post their contracts online and develop a contract management database, for instance.

thepetitionsite.com

Update March 10, 2015 9:45 a.m. Texas Tech University's Board of Regents voted Friday to award an honorary degree to Timothy Cole. The Associated Press first reported about this vote on Monday, after the university released a statement on the regents' vote.

Original story Dec. 11, 2014: Timothy Cole was the first person to receive a Texas posthumous pardon for a crime he didn’t commit. That happened in 2010. Now, a Texas resident wants Texas Tech University to grant Cole an honorary degree.

via Xconomy

Texas lawmakers in a transportation committee say they want to make 2015 the year Texas bans texting and driving statewide.

KUT News

A study from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Davis, and the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría, Mexico City, looks at the mental health of children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are undocumented Mexican immigrants.  

These U.S.-born children of undocumented parents reported high levels of anxiety and also symptoms of depression if their parents were detained or deported. 

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Leaders of the Texas Senate have sent a letter to President Barack Obama [read a PDF of the letter here] about Medicaid. It says that if Texas can’t make changes to how it runs Medicaid now, there’ll be no Medicaid expansion for Texas in the future.

The Affordable Care Act gives states the option to expand Medicaid to cover more people, or in the case of Texas and some other states, not expand it.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

With vaccines in the news the past couple months, you might have got to wondering about your own.

Remember that card with a record of all of your shots on it? If you’re past your college days, it might’ve been a while since you’ve seen it – if you even have at all. If you didn’t tell your doctor at age 18 that you want Texas to keep that record electronically, chances are your records are gone, but some state lawmakers are trying to change that. 

Monik Marcus/flickr http://bit.ly/ODQleE

About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and low-income women are more likely to have an unintended pregnancy.

A new study suggests that if birth control pills were covered by insurance and made available over the counter, the rate of unintended pregnancies would drop anywhere from seven up to 25 percent. 

The study, published in the journal Contraception, found that the number of low-income women using birth control pills would jump between 11 and 21 percent if they were both covered by insurance and made available without a prescription.

KUT News

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not start accepting applications Wednesday for a program designed to shield more than four million immigrants from deportation, a direct result of this week's federal court ruling that temporarily halts an expansion of the program to people over 30 and to immigrant parents living in the country illegally.

The reaction to this decision runs along party lines. U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, says the deportation relief provided to people who came to the country as children boosts the economy by putting people to work.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Ahead of Sunday's deadline, officials say consumers are stepping up enrollment for 2015 coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law. The President's top health official was in Austin Friday to encourage more Texans to enroll.

Karina Kling/Time Warner Cable News

Plaintiffs in a case challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas have filed a new request [read PDF here] asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay on a federal judge’s ruling that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. That stay is in place while the appeals process continues.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio ruled against the gay marriage ban in Texas, but he put that decision on hold temporarily while Texas appealed it.

Morguefile/flickr

Alabama is now the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage. In January, a federal judge struck down that state’s gay marriage ban, and a federal appeals court let it stand.  

The process went like this:

Pascal Dolémieux/flickr

A state lawmaker wants to boost vaccine requirements for children in Texas public schools and give parents fewer exemptions.

Right now, public schools in Texas can waive immunization requirements for students whose parents claim exemptions including medical, military or what the state calls reasons of conscience.

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