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. 

Ways To Connect

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is ordering all state agencies under control of the governor's office to use E-Verify to check the residency status of employees and prospective employees. According to his office, 17 state agencies already use it. This announcement is something of a change of heart.

healthcare.gov

Enrollment for plans on the health insurance exchange has started, but not many people know this.

"A recent Kaiser study reflected that less than 20 percent of those eligible to enroll in the marketplace exchange is aware that open enrollment is taking place today," says Jeff Hudson who works with UnitedHealthcare, one of the insurance providers on the marketplace in Texas this time around. "So it’s very important that you take the time to get connected, become aware and get enrolled by Feb. 15."

Donate Life Texas

More than 120,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting an organ transplant, and of those, 13,000 live in Texas.

One Texas-based nonprofit is trying to educate people, particularly minorities, about the critical shortage of organ donors.

KUT News

When mayors from across the U.S. gathered in Austin last month for the National League of Cities annual convention, a group of them took time during the event to express support for President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

In Austin, one Mexican-American family has been celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional feast for decades. The Jaimes family doesn’t make turkey or stuffing or even pumpkin pie, however. They celebrate with hundreds of tamales from scratch, all for their employees.

Jenna VonHofe/ KUT

Hundreds of people packed the area outside of the Austin Police Department headquarters Tuesday night for a rally and march in support of Michael Brown, the Ferguson, Mo., teenager shot and killed by a police officer earlier this year. They shouted slogans like "justice for Mike Brown" and "hands up, don't shoot."

Harry Ransom Center

Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez died earlier this year, but documents belonging to the literary giant will soon live on at the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.

The materials include literary works with hand written corrections, a number of his computers, more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence and even the manuscript of his final unpublished novel.

flickr.com/madhausfrau

Two same-sex couples here in Texas are asking a federal court to lift a stay on its ruling against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage

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