Veronica Zaragovia

Veronica Zaragovia reports on state government for KUT News, and gets to team up with an extraordinary group of KUT journalists on how legislation affects the people of Texas. She's reported as a legislative relief news person with the Associated Press in South Dakota and has worked as a freelancer and intern with  the Agence France Presse, TIME, WDET Detroit public radio and PBS NewsHour, among others. She's dedicated much of her adult life to traveling, learning languages and drinking iced coffee. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ahead of the next legislative session, state senators are talking about one of the most politically divisive federal programs – Medicaid. Or more specifically, how to avoid expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas and still get more people insured.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Texas has at least two options for insuring more people. One is expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas. The state’s Republican leadership doesn’t support that option.

Baby boomers have dominated the work force for decades, but now they’re fighting to stay in it as they live longer and can’t afford to live off of their savings in retirement.

Older job seekers have a hard time finding jobs – even in Austin.  Experts, however, say the growing aging population is one reason for hope.

Take Bill Hodges – he waited until the age of 57 to move to Austin, with no job prospects and dreams of a new life.

Gov. Rick Perry's border security surge was under the microscope at the Texas Capitol Tuesday. In two separate meetings, lawmakers tried to get a handle on how much money was being spent, and what the money was being spent on.

Gov. Perry’s office has identified a source for $38 million dollars in state funding that are going towards a deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard troops and an increase in Department of Public Safety officers in South Texas.

A trial over new abortion restrictions in Texas continues in Austin today. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel heard the first day of arguments for and against two provisions: One, that abortion clinics must become surgical centers by Sept. 1 and two, that abortion physicians in McAllen and El Paso must receive admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform the procedure.

When the legal challenge to the law, known as House Bill 2, began, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jan Soifer, argued the provisions will drastically reduce the number of abortion providers in Texas. 
Fewer than 10 facilities that meet the new requirements will be open, and all of them in the state’s major cities.

The heads of the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety say they never recommended deploying National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border – as Gov. Rick Perry ordered earlier this month.

It came as some state lawmakers grilled officials on what’s being accomplished with the millions of dollars in extra spending aimed at shoring up security along the Texas-Mexico border. Up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops are being deployed to the border for up to a year. It will cost the state up to $12 million a month, which includes money for training, even learning Spanish.

Can the National Guard troops being deployed to the border arrest and detain people? Only if Gov. Rick Perry says they can. But experts do have some concerns about giving law enforcement powers to a reserve military force.

From a legal standpoint, the National Guard has no authority to enforce federal immigration law, because the troops will be operating under the governor’s authority. In this case, Gov. Perry has called them up, and not President Barack Obama.

If Texas accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid, roughly 1.5 million more people would have health insurance. Now a new study suggests more than half of them are people who work in service industries that help fuel the state’s economy.

The report by Families USA says the people in Texas who’d benefit most from closing the coverage gap are cashiers, drivers, cooks and servers, hotel clerks and construction workers, for example.

Many of them don’t earn enough to qualify for a tax subsidy under the Affordable Care Act, Dee Mahon with Families USA says.

Because of a 2008 law, thousands of children crossing into Texas illegally are not turned back right away. That’s because they must get an immigration hearing first – due to a federal law that passed with bipartisan support.

The legislation in wound through Congress in late 2007. A year later, President George W. Bush signed it into law. So why is it coming up now?

Researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts have a new report out on how much states are spending on inmate health care. Between 2001 and 2008, Texas had a decrease in this spending, but since then, it’s gone up again.