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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2015 Legislature
9:30 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Will Texas Senate Keep Its Two-Thirds Rule in 2015?

The Texas Senate will vote whether to keep or scrap the two-thirds rule after Jan. 20, 2015.
Bryan Winter/KUT News

Texas senators have long honored a tradition known as the two-thirds rule, which means two-thirds of the chamber’s 31 members – or 21 of them – have to agree to bring a bill up for a vote.

The full Texas senate will have a vote to decide whether to keep this rule or scrap it in the 2015 session, but Texas senators will have to wait until after the Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is sworn in before they vote whether to keep the two-thirds rule.  

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2015 Legislature
4:18 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Gun Rights Advocates Drum Up Support for Open Carry Bill

Murdoch Pizgatti, president of Come and Take It Texas, operates the Ghost Gunner machine outside the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 13, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gun rights activists demonstrated at the Capitol today in support of a bill that would allow people to carry handguns openly without a permit.

The author of the bill is State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Tea Party Republican from Tarrant County. He stood alongside thousands of signed petitions in favor of House Bill 195. Rep. Stickland said paying for a permit is unfair to low-income Texans. 

"There are a lot of people out here who do not have the disposable income to pay these fines for the right to carry," Stickland said.

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Abortion
1:50 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Portions of Texas Abortion Law Under Scrutiny Again by Federal Judges

On Jan. 7, judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments from opponents and backers of Texas' abortion law, HB2.
Karina Kling/Time Warner Cable News

Back in October, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked two parts of a Texas abortion law called HB2, but only temporarily, until a federal appeals court rules on their constitutionality.

One key provision of the Texas law would require that all abortion clinics adopt the building standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a standard that most existing providers don't meet. These buildings cost millions of dollars to construct.

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Austin
2:51 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Health Workers Help Latino Parents Overcome Language Barriers in Austin

Sendero Health Plans recently started a pilot program that sends community health workers to homes of Spanish-speaking parents who need help.

Sendero Health Plans recently started a pilot program that sends community health workers with the Latino Healthcare Forum to homes of Spanish-speaking parents who need help understanding what the doctor recommended -- an effort meant to reduce ER visits.

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2015 Legislature
8:43 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Abortion, Family Planning Bills Filed Ahead of Texas' 2015 Legislative Session

Texas' 84th Legislature might debate bills related to abortion and family planning in the 2015 legislative session.
Liang Shi for KUT News

The Texas Legislature made headlines in 2013 when it passed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country,

That law, known as HB2, bans most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, it requires doctors to receive admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and only allows abortions at ambulatory surgical centers. Parts of that law are being challenged this week at a federal appeals court.

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2015 Legislature
8:40 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Can Texas Insure More Low-Income People Without Expanding Medicaid?

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott says he expects Texas lawmakers will consider ways to reduce the rate of the uninsured next legislative session.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation, and last legislative session, lawmakers did have some discussion on how Texas could draw down federal dollars to insure more people, but only if the options don't include expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

At least one of the bills filed already would allow Medicaid expansion, but that doesn’t mean any will make it to the floor of the House or Senate for discussion.

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Aging in Texas
10:15 am
Mon January 5, 2015

Texas Researchers Seek World War II Vets for Study on Memory, Identity

World War II veteran Joe Berger receives a visit from Cadet Third Class Garrett Goldstone, who's with the University of Texas at Austin Air Force ROTC, on Nov. 11, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A team of researchers, led by a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, has been studying characteristics of memory among World War II veterans.

The team is finding that these seniors have an unusual ability to remember their life stories, which may be a result of serving in that particular war.

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Texas
7:17 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Texas' Voice in Washington Will Get Louder Through House Committee Chairs

Texas Republicans will chair six of the 21 U.S. House committees when the 114th U.S. Congress starts in January 2015.
Photo by jmtimages http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmtimages/

The 114th U.S. Congress is getting attention for how few women will chair committees in the House, but when it comes to Texans – they won’t be under-represented. Texas Republicans will chair six of the 21 U.S. House committees.

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2014 Elections
11:41 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Early Voting Starts Today to Fill Texas House District 17 Seat

Early voting starts on Dec. 29, 2014, for a state representative, District 17, special election.

Early voting starts today in several special elections, including one to fill a State House seat vacated by State Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington.

Voters in Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes and Lee Counties are casting a ballot once again. They’re choosing a new Texas House member to represent House District 17, a seat that opened up after Rep. Kleinschmidt resigned to work for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

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Texas
9:04 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Medicaid Eligibility Changes Have Texas Parents Scrambling to Regain Coverage

When Julio Solis Milam, 12, became ineligible for the Medically Dependent Children’s Program in 2013, his mother Claire Milam appealed the decision. He’s now eligible for a different Medicaid waiver program.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas has Medicaid programs that help parents or guardians care at home for children who would otherwise be eligible for nursing facility care, but recently the requirements for children to qualify for some programs have changed.

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Texas
8:28 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Physicians Groups Oppose Treatment of Sleep Disorders by Texas Dentists

The Texas Medical Association has filed a lawsuit in the Travis County District Court challenging a new rule adopted by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
Photo by Keith Burtis/http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithburtis/

Last June, The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners adopted a rule allowing dentists in the state to diagnose and treat certain sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea in collaboration with a physician, but a number of physicians groups have spoken out against this new rule, including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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Same-Sex Marriage
7:45 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Texas Plaintiffs Hope Federal Appeals Court Will Rule Against Gay Marriage Ban

Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Texas' same-sex marriage ban. They spoke at a Freedom to Marry event at the LBJ Library on Dec. 15, 2014.
KUT News

In February, a U.S. district judge in San Antonio ruled that Texas’ gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia didn’t allow gay couples to marry right away, however. He issued a stay on his ruling pending an appeal from the state.

Next, three judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments from both sides in this case challenging the same-sex marriage ban in Texas.

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Texas
8:03 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Volunteers Caring for Texas Children Need Financial Support, Report Suggests

A new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities says more than 250,000 children in Texas are living with volunteer caregivers who need financial support.
Filipa Rodriques/KUT News

In Texas, more than 250,000 children are living with grandparents or other volunteer caregivers, but a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities suggests that many of them are not up to the task financially and could use more support and guidance.

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2014 Elections
7:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Majority of Texas Voters Chose 2014 Candidates Based on Political Party

Straight ticket voting in Texas reached an all-time high in the 2014 elections, according to a new report.

Straight ticket voting in Texas reached an all-time high in last month’s elections, according to a new report released by the Austin Community College Center for Public Policy and Political Studies.

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Affordable Care Act
9:37 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Finding Health Care for Uninsured Latinas to Reduce ER Visits

Seton Survivorship Nurse Navigator Veronica Serrano, right, helps a purposely unidentified former cancer patient on Nov. 19, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

We've all heard the stories about how a lack of health insurance can force someone to ignore small health issues, until they end up in the emergency room with a more traumatic, and sometimes untreatable, problem. This is happening frequently with the country's uninsured Latina population.

In Austin and across the U.S., nonprofits are helping connect them with health care resources in their communities.

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2015 Legislature
5:18 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Public Can Comment on Whether Texas Should Merge Its Health Agencies Into One

On Dec. 10, 2014, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission voted unanimously to approve a merger of the state's five health agencies into one.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is recommending that all Texas health agencies be consolidated into one “mega-agency," but the move would need approval from Texas lawmakers next legislative session.

Back in 2003, Texas lawmakers passed a measure that reduced the number of health and human services agencies from 12 to five. Now, the Sunset Advisory Commission has approved merging those five agencies into one.

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Austin
8:33 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Holiday Gift Program Extends to Seniors in Greater Austin

This year, the national Be a Santa to a Senior program will provide gifts for seniors in the greater Austin area for the first time.
Image courtesy flickr.com/hapal

The population of seniors in the greater Austin area is growing dramatically, and with that growth comes an increase in a number of services for the elderly. One example of that increased need takes place around Christmas time.

This year, more than 500 seniors in the greater Austin area, from South Austin up to Georgetown, will feel a little less alone during the December holidays because the for the first time, the national Be a Santa to a Senior program will distribute gifts here.

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Texas
8:21 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Gov.-Elect Abbott Lays Out His Priorities for His Term in Office

Attorney General Greg Abbott, seated next to his wife, Cecilia Abbott, lists his priorities for his term in office as future governor of Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott says his staff is ready to get to work when the 2015 legislative session begins in January. At a press conference on Monday, he laid out his priorities.

Education started off the list. Abbott says he wants more pre-kindergarten classes and improved reading and math skills by the time students reach the third grade. He says he also wants to elevate the quality of Texas universities.

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Ebola
5:49 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Texas Infectious Disease Experts Recommend Google App For Fighting Ebola

The Dec. 1, 2014 report of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease has been released, and contains 17 issues and recommendations for the state to follow.
Lizzie Chen for KUT News

A group of Texas experts on infectious disease has submitted a report with advice on how to handle any future outbreaks of viruses like Ebola.

The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease chose technology as one of its priorities. Dr. Brett Giroir, the task force director, says they ended up working with Google on an app, which allows someone being monitored to enter his or her temperature and a public health official would have access to that.

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Border & Immigration
5:40 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Texas Border Security Surge Is Combating Criminal Activity, Official Says

Posters on Texas-Mexico border operations were displayed at the Texas State Capitol this week.
KUT News

The Department of Public Safety says the number of people crossing the Texas-Mexico border has fallen dramatically since DPS expanded its operations there earlier this year.

Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a panel of House lawmakers that monthly apprehensions have dropped by about 25,000 people between June and now.

"Clearly we’ve had an impact," McCraw said. "There’s no question we’ve had an impact in the Rio Grande Valley."

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