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. 

The second day of the Sunset Advisory Commission’s public meetings at the Capitol is underway.

Today, the public can comment on recommendations made in recent commission staff reports on how to fix major flaws at state agencies, including the Department of Family Protective Services. A June report [click here for PDF] of the Sunset Advisory Commission had about 100 pages of recommendations for reforming the department.

Sunset staff member and project manager Amy Tripp, who worked on the report, told lawmakers Tuesday that caseworkers complain about the punitive work environment.

A national score card out today ranks states on the long-term services they provide for the elderly – and while Texas sits in the middle of the pack overall, it's at the very bottom in some important measures.

The report looks at indicators like affordability, quality of care and support for family caregivers. Overall, Texas ranks 30th on care for older adults. Minnesota tops the list while Alabama and Kentucky are at the bottom. Read more on the overall report.

But on some specific indicators, however, Texas is at the very bottom. In both quality of care and quality of life, Texas ranks 49th, according to the 2014 Long-Term Services and Supports Scorecard. High staff  turnover, the use of antipsychotic medications and a high rate of pressure sores pull the state's score down.

Now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his primary to a Tea Party opponent, immigration legislation may be a tougher prospect.

But in Texas, a number of Republicans say they’ll keep urging Washington to change immigration law.

Update:  Drs. Lamar Robinson and Jasbir Ahluwalia have reached a settlement [PDF] with University General Hospital Dallas. The hospital  has restored their admitting privileges, which enables them to keep providing abortions by complying with Texas' new abortion restrictions.

Original Story (April, 17, 2014): Two Texas doctors that offer abortions are challenging a hospital for revoking their admitting privileges.

Read the petition here.

In a letter, University General Hospital Dallas says granting admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions would be disruptive to the hospital’s reputation.

Undocumented immigrants live in deplorable conditions at private prisons in Texas, according to a report out today by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

The report is based on years of interviews the ACLU and ACLU of Texas have conducted with immigrants detained at so-called Criminal Alien Requirement prisons. Inmates said conditions include overflowing bathrooms and infestations of vermin.

Rebecca Robertson, Legal & Policy director of the ACLU of Texas, says these companies are in business to make money – and federal Bureau of Prisons contracts are lucrative.

Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana?

William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly. In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says. 

The debate over Medicaid expansion in Texas came up at the Capitol today in a new way: there’s concern about how to pay the rising costs of health care for prison inmates.

Costs related to infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV are on the rise in the Texas correctional system. Another number on the rise: the amount of Texas inmates older than age 55.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, says it’s another reason why the state should consider expanding Medicaid eligibility as offered by the Affordable Care Act.

In Texas, about 400,000 people are on both Medicare and Medicaid. Right now, they’re on separate health plans: the state handles Medicaid, while the federal government oversees Medicare. 

But a pilot effort is underway to shed some redundancy and unnecessary cost – by folding the plans into one.  

Combining services under one plan would help people get the care they need in an appropriate facility – a nursing home instead of a hospital, for example, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Spokesperson Stephanie Goodman says it increases cost-saving incentives if one plan is not making decisions that are paid for by the other plan. "By combining it, you can get people better care in the right setting, lower costs generally, and the savings can be shared by both the state and federal government," Goodman says.

Today when a Texas House panel hosted a hearing to get an update on money from BP after the Deep Water Horizon explosion, lawmakers learned about money BP gave to the Governor’s office, without looping the Legislature in. 

Only 35 percent of injured sexual assault victims in the U.S. receive medical care, according to a new study that suggests not enough nurses are trained to help victims and conduct forensic exams.

But there’s an effort to change that.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center is working on a forensic nursing program that would boost the number of the state’s nurses trained to help rape victims seek care and justice.

President Obama recently called for millions in new spending aimed at reducing the number of foster care children being prescribed psychotropic medications.

In Texas, the percentage of children on these medications has been dropping in recent years, but concerns remain.

On the heels of allegations that VA clinics across the country manipulated wait times, a state senate hearing will ask veterans whether they've struggled to get a timely doctor’s appointment.

Lieutenant Governor candidate and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, says she’s especially troubled by allegations of misrepresented wait times at clinics in San Antonio and Austin. The chair of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, Van de Putte says an independent investigation should take place.

"People responsible need to be held accountable," she says. "These scheduling clerks didn’t just decide to falsify reports all over the country at the same time."

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill last session that would have subjected some groups to stricter campaign finance disclosure rules.  Now, the Texas House State Affairs Committee is taking another look at campaign finance law. 

The committee is taking up the issue of secret campaign spending by politically active nonprofits – aka "dark money" groups that can contribute large sums of money to political action committees without having to disclose their donors. Committee Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, says voters have a right to know who’s influencing elections.

Texas has some of the busiest federal courts in the nation – and some of the most judicial vacancies. That means judges who are on duty in Texas are struggling.

Right now, seven seats are vacant at federal district courts in Texas. Four more vacancies are expected by 2015. That’s more than 20 percent of federal judgeships in the state.

color:black">The first psychiatric emergency department in Central Texas opened today at University Medical Center Brackenridge.