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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Transportation
5:15 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Texas Voters Will Decide Fate of Transportation Funding Measure in November

At a Texas House Transportation Committee hearing on Oct. 8, 2014, lawmakers discussed Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment that would divert some funding to a state highway fund if voters approve it.
Liang Shi/KUT News

This November, Texas residents will vote on a state constitutional amendment known as Proposition 1. If they approve it, some money from oil and gas production taxes will go into a state transportation fund. Today, state lawmakers went over what’s at stake.

If voters approve Proposition 1, it would divert a portion of oil and gas tax money to the State Highway Fund, which would help the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation.

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Ebola
5:41 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Panel Scrutinizes Texas' Response to Ebola, Offers Insight on Future Action

The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services met on Oct. 7, 2014 to review how prepared Texas is to handle cases of infectious diseases.
KUT News

The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee convened in Austin today to home in on what Texas has done in response to having the first confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S., and what should be done next. 

People in Texas should feel confident in the state’s ability to respond to cases of infectious diseases, Kyle Janek, who leads the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told members of the Senate committee. He said he can’t promise, however, that there will be no missteps.

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HB2
4:43 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Lawyers for Texas Abortion Providers Expect SCOTUS to Hear Case

Abortion rights advocates plan to take their efforts against abortion restrictions in Texas to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

As of today, Texas women have less access to abortion, after a federal court decision yesterday lets restrictions on clinics go into effect. Abortion rights advocates now say they plan to ultimately take their effort to the nation’s highest court.

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Ebola
6:08 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Family of Dallas Ebola Patient Ordered to Stay Inside Their Home

Local law enforcement in Dallas is monitoring family members of the Dallas Ebola patient, to ensure they comply with an order to remain inside their home until at least Oct. 19, 2014.
KUT News

Four relatives of the Dallas Ebola patient are being monitored to ensure they stay inside their home and not risk spreading the disease. So far, however, they don’t have symptoms of Ebola, but their temperature will be taken twice a day.

This type of quarantine is possible because of a Texas law that allows health officials to issue a control order. It requires someone to stay home, "to ensure that we can monitor them as needed," said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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HB2
5:39 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Federal Appeals Court Allows Texas to Implement Abortion Rules

A panel of judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the portions of an abortion law that had been struck down by a lower court's federal judge in Austin will go into effect immediately.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

A panel of judges at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing portions of a controversial Texas abortion law to go into effect immediately. [Read a PDF version of the ruling here.]

Parts of the law were struck down by a federal judge in Austin just before they were scheduled to go into effect last month. Today's ruling allows those provisions to go into effect pending the outcome of the state's appeal.

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Ebola
5:19 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Ebola Case in Austin Unlikely, But Officials Say City's Prepared

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Director Ernesto Rodriguez speaks at a press conference on Oct. 1, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Austin officials say the city has a plan to address any cases of Ebola, now that the first confirmed case in the U.S. is up the road in Dallas.

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services says it's been ready since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began.

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Child Protective Services
5:36 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Experts Say Texas Child Protective Services Needs Help from Community Members

State Reps. Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, left, and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, are members of the Texas House Select Committee on Child Protection. The committee hosted a public hearing on Sept. 30, 2014.
KUT News

A federal commission is researching how the U.S. can reduce the number of deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Today, a member of that group told Texas lawmakers that no one state agency is to blame for these child fatalities.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is working on a report for Congress and the President on how the U.S. can fight child deaths. The commission’s Susan Dreyfus says more people like doctors, police officers and caretakers need to call Child Protective Services when they see a child at risk.

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Affordable Care Act
11:15 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Texans Signing Up for Obamacare Will Have More Choices This Year

Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke about the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace on Sept. 23, 2014 at the Brookings Institution.
Brookings Institution

People shopping for health insurance on the federal marketplace in Texas will have more options when the enrollment period begins again later this year.

Sixteen companies will offer health insurance plans in Texas through the federal marketplace this time around, when open enrollment begins Nov. 15 for coverage starting in 2015. At the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, U.S. Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke about changes in the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

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Texas
8:34 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Obamacare Plans in Texas Vary Widely in Price, Report Shows

A new study from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation finds the cost of health insurance on the new federal marketplace varies widely in Texas.
healthcare.gov

A new study from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation finds the cost of health insurance on the new federal marketplace varies widely in Texas.

Researchers found almost half of Texans eligible for a tax subsidy for health insurance said plans were still too expensive. The Episcopal Health Foundation’s president, Elena Marks, says she and her colleagues went back to see what was unaffordable to many people.

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2014 Elections
7:39 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Groups Push to Mobilize Texas' Latino Voters Before Election Day

A number of national groups have announced efforts to get eligible Latinos to the polls on Election Day 2014.
flickr.com/whiteafrican

Just about every politician and political group views Latino voters as the key to future success at the ballot box. Local, state and even several national groups are trying to mobilize Latinos across Texas this year, but will it work?

Texas is home to roughly 10 million Latinos, but their turnout in Texas ranks among the lowest in the U.S. In 2012, about 60 percent of eligible Latinos did not vote.

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Health Care
11:51 am
Thu September 18, 2014

'Balance Bills' Can Hit Texas Consumers Hard After Hospital Visits

A new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows that in Texas, and many states in the U.S., people are getting what’s called a balance bill after visiting the ER.
Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Texans may find surprise charges after visiting an emergency room, according to a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities. How they find out about them is when an unexpected piece of mail arrives. 

Most people who have insurance think they know what they’re responsible for when it comes to paying for medical care at a hospital, if they visit one in their insurance provider's network, but in Texas, and many states in the U.S., people are getting what’s called a balance bill.

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Affordable Care Act
5:30 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Thousands in Texas Must Prove Immigration Status to Keep Health Coverage

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services is telling people they have until Sept. 30 to prove their citizenship or immigration status, or else lose health coverage.
healthcare.gov

The number of people in Texas without health insurance has declined by less than half a percentage point since implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report out by the Census Bureau. The number dropped from 22.5 percent in 2012 to 22.1 percent in 2013.

Now, some of the people who recently got coverage may lose it.

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2015 Legislature
7:35 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Texas Fails In Nursing Home Care, Prompting a Push for Change

Texas is the worst state in the nation when it comes to nursing home quality, according to a new report from a national advocacy group – Families for Better Care, out on Sept. 10, 2014.
Image courtesy flickr.com/hapal

Texas is the worst state in the nation when it comes to nursing home quality, according to a new report from a national advocacy group – Families for Better Care.

The group has ranked Texas last for the second year in a row, so Texas lawmakers have been discussing what to do to change this when they return to Austin in January.

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Affordable Care Act
4:23 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Affordable Care Act Returns to Texas Lawmakers' Agenda

The Texas Senate Affairs Committee heard testimony on the Affordable Care Act on Sept. 15, 2014.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Today, the Texas Senate Affairs Committee heard testimony on the Affordable Care Act – from enrollment numbers to costs to identity theft concerns. The public hearing comes after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst asked lawmakers to study what he called “emerging negative impacts” of the law.

About 734,000 people in Texas signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the first enrollment period, and with another one about to begin, the Texas Department of Insurance says Texas has roughly 200 state-certified navigators who help people use healthcare.gov after taking federal and Texas-specific training courses.

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Abortion
5:17 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Federal Court Hears Abortion Law Arguments in Lengthy Appeals Process

A panel of federal judges are considering arguments related to provisions in Texas’ newest abortion law that were struck down late last month.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

A panel of federal judges are considering arguments related to provisions in Texas’ newest abortion law that were struck down late last month. It's one step in a long process of appeals.

The State of Texas is asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant an emergency motion to enforce the state’s abortion law.

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2014 Elections
7:47 am
Thu September 11, 2014

One Group of Texas Voters Contradicts State's Low Turnout Rates

In 2012, among voters 70 plus in Texas, turnout was more than 60 percent, according to Census Bureau data.
Callie Richmond/The Texas Tribune

Texas has historically low rates of voter turnout. In the last gubernatorial election in 2010, less than a third of eligible voters cast a ballot.

That was the second lowest turnout in the nation that November, but one group of voters has proven pretty reliable – even in Texas.

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Border & Immigration
7:24 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Texas Lawmakers Get Update on Health and Welfare of Children from Central America

At a Texas House Child Protection Committee hearing on Sept. 10, 2014, officials gave updates on the health of unaccompanied children from Central America living in Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas lawmakers got an update yesterday on children who’ve crossed the southern border illegally over the last several months.

Officials expressed concern about the unaccompanied children's health and welfare at a hearing of a Texas House Child Protection Committee hearing.

The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has been dropping over the summer. About 54,000 have crossed the border, and 4,000 of them have settled in Texas, so far.

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Texas Legislature
7:57 am
Wed September 10, 2014

White Student Enrollment in Texas Higher Ed is Down for the Third Straight Year

For the third year in a row, white student enrollment in Texas' public colleges and universities is down, while minority group numbers are up.
KUT News

More people are attending public colleges and universities in Texas, but members of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education heard this week that the increases are not across all groups.

Susan Brown, the assistant commissioner of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for planning and accountability, told lawmakers on Tuesday that enrollment at Texas colleges is up by about 21,000 students right now, but enrollment among white students had declined for the third straight year.

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Same-Sex Marriage
7:25 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Plaintiffs Renew Their Challenge of Texas' Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Texas' same-sex marriage ban filed a brief in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 9, 2014.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

Two couples challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage are telling a federal appeals court that the ban, in their words, “defies logic."

In February, a federal judge in San Antonio struck down the voter-approved ban, but the state has appealed.

San Antonio attorney Neel Lane with Akin Gump represents the plaintiffs challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In written arguments to the appeals court filed yesterday [read PDF version of brief], he reiterates the claim that the ban is unconstitutional.

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2014 Elections
7:04 am
Tue September 9, 2014

As Abbott Questions Legality of Davis' Book Tour, Experts Find Little Precedent

Whether Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis can promote her memoir out Sept. 9, 2014 and still abide by Texas campaign finance laws is being questioned by the campaign of her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott.
Credit Blue Rider Press

State Sen. Wendy Davis’ memoir comes out today, though the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s book has already caused some controversy. In it, she shares the stories of two abortions she had for medical reasons.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign, however, is focusing on another issue – whether she can promote her book and still abide by Texas campaign finance laws. Abbott’s campaign asked the state’s campaign finance regulator to weigh in Monday.

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