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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Same-Sex Marriage
12:09 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

First Austin Couple in Line For Marriage License Gets Legally Married

Rev. Karen Thompson of Austin's Metropolitan Community Church marries Lupe Garcia, left, and Cindy Stocking on June 27, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

The first same-sex couple to get to the Travis County Clerk’s Office on Friday, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, was legally married over the weekend.

At their ceremony on Saturday, Lupe Garcia and Cindy Stocking seemed calm, as though they’d stood at the altar together before with Reverend Karen Thompson, but they were getting married for the first time.

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Memorial Day Floods
12:16 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

Blanco River Levels Still Too High for Damage Assessment

It's been one month since the Memorial Day weekend flooding devastated communities in Central Texas. Pictured here is discarded damaged furniture in a neighborhood in San Marcos.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

One month ago, the Memorial Day Floods devastated many communities here in Central Texas, and today, the rebuilding continues.

How much officials can do is still limited, though, because the water hasn’t fully receded.

Local agencies are still searching for two children who went missing when the Blanco River flooded. The problem is that the water hasn’t receded enough to enable search teams to access all the areas.

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Affordable Care Act
7:30 am
Wed June 24, 2015

As Austin Musicians Struggle to Make Ends Meet, Many Forego Health Insurance

Kalu James, left, plays with his band member JT Holt, on Thursday nights at the Continental Club in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

In Austin, the music industry generates almost $2 billion a year for the local economy, but some musicians say they’re lucky if they leave a gig with $5 in their pocket.

Fewer people are willing to pay cover charges to watch live music, but rent keeps rising in Austin.

As a result, a lot of musicians forego health insurance, and now some are worrying about how Austin will keep musicians here if they can’t afford basic expenses.

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Affordable Care Act
7:26 am
Thu June 18, 2015

Texas Has No Answers To What's Next After Obamacare Ruling

Anita Hoffman works with Elizabeth Colvin, director of Foundation Communities' Insure Central Texas, to sign up for a health insurance plan on June 17, 2015.
Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, possibly today, on a case that will decide whether tax subsidies for health insurance plans bought on the federal marketplace are legal.

If the court strikes down the subsidies, however, the matter of who decides what happens next in Texas remains murky. 

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Affordable Care Act
10:14 am
Mon June 15, 2015

About One Million Texans Affected if SCOTUS Invalidates Obamacare Subsidies

When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on King v. Burwell, the decision could affect the price of health insurance for roughly 1 million people in Texas.
Photo courtesy wallyg, flickr.com/70323761@N00

Before the end of the month, possibly as soon as today, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case called King v. Burwell. The decision could affect the price of health insurance for roughly 1 million people in Texas.

It's a decision that comes down to four words.

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HB2
2:18 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Texas Abortion Providers Ask Appeals Court to Suspend Order Upholding HB2

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a provision of a 2013 Texas abortion law, HB2, which requires abortion physicians to receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Daniel Reese/KUT News

Abortion providers in Texas want a federal appeals court to block its own ruling. They’re asking the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay its decision upholding a 2013 abortion law, because allowing the law to go into effect would leave Texas with no more than eight clinics. [Read the stay request here.]

On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit upheld the Texas law (HB 2) requiring abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. 

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Texas
2:14 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Texas Wildfire Experts Predict Weaker Threat Level This Year

Texas A&M Forest Service experts don't expect the 2015 wildfire season in Texas to be anything like the 2011 one, which caused the Bastrop fires pictured here.
Photo by Matt Largey/KUT News

The 2015 wildfire season is fast approaching. In Colorado yesterday, federal officials talked about the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires across the country.

Here in Texas, the threat of wildfires is not as high as in other states, but that’s because of recent flooding. 

Experts like Tom Spencer, who heads the predictive services department at the Texas A&M Forest Service, say this year, the upcoming wildfire season is causing them less stress.

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Affordable Care Act
12:01 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

How Obamacare's Doing in Texas, by the Numbers

President Barack Obama is touting the effects of the Affordable Care Act this week.
Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

On Tuesday, the White House released numbers illustrating the effect of the Affordable Care Act here in Texas — numbers that came out on the same day that President Obama delivered a speech in which he described his signature health care law as a success.

President Obama spoke Tuesday at the Catholic Hospital Association conference in Washington, D.C. He told the audience the Affordable Care Act has turned out better than even its supporters expected.

"Nearly one in three Americans have already been covered," he said, receiving applause. "More than 16 million people driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level, ever. Ever."

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HB2
12:52 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

Appeals Court Upholds Most of Texas HB2 Abortion Law

Credit Alexa Ura/Texas Tribune

A federal appeals court is allowing several disputed elements of Texas’ HB2 abortion law to go into effect.

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Memorial Day Floods
11:27 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Texas Employees Have One Month to Apply for Disaster Assistance Money

People who've lost work in Texas after the Memorial Day Floods could qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance through the Texas Workforce Commission.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

In the roughly 13 years that Tom Keyser has owned Ino’z Brew & Chew in Wimberley, he’s been flooded three times, and last month’s flooding was the worst.

"This water level inside the building and in the restaurant itself was the highest it’s ever, ever been," he said. 

The restaurant got 18 inches of water in areas including the kitchen and main dining area, which meant Keyser and his partner had to close down the restaurant for five days. That was tough for him, his partner and their 35 employees.

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Memorial Day Floods
8:13 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Attorney General Warns Texans in Disaster Zones Against Scammers

Residents of Hays, Harris and Van Zandt Counties may be eligible for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the Memorial Day Floods.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

In May, Texas had the highest monthly rainfall total in its history, but the hundreds of people affected by flash flooding are finding out that they may not have had the right type of insurance coverage. The Insurance Council of Texas is warning Texans that a homeowner policy doesn’t cover everything.

"A lot of people think this homeowner policy is good for flooding. It’s not," says Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the  Insurance Council of Texas. "You need to get a separate flood insurance policy. That’s going to protect you against any type of rising waters."

Meanwhile, residents of Hays, Harris and Van Zandt Counties may be eligible for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Residents can register online at disasterassistance.gov.

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Affordable Care Act
5:08 pm
Tue June 2, 2015

More Texas Women, Hispanics Insured Under ACA, Report Suggests

A June report from the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University’s Baker Institute suggests the uninsured rates among Texas Hispanics and women have dropped the most since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
KUT News

Some Texans may have benefited more than others from the Affordable Care Act, according to research by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the rate of uninsured Hispanics has dropped 38 percent. As of March this year, less than a quarter of Hispanics still didn't have health insurance.

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2015 Legislature
7:00 am
Sat May 30, 2015

Texas Open Carry Bill Approved by State Legislature

A bill, HB 910, that would allow the open carry of handguns in Texas temporarily stalled in the Texas Legislature on May 27, 2015.
Erika Rich/Texas Tribune

Update, May 30, 2015:

An open carry bill was approved by the Texas Legislature on Friday, and the measure now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature.

Texas is one of few states where open carry is prohibited, but the bill approved by state lawmakers on Friday would change that. License holders would be allowed to openly carry in a hip or shoulder holster.

Right now, Texans can only carry concealed handguns.

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Memorial Day Floods
7:36 am
Fri May 29, 2015

Volunteers Help Rebuild San Marcos, One House at a Time

After the 2015 Memorial Day floods, sidewalks in San Marcos are full of ruined furniture and appliances.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

We’ve been reporting on the damage caused to communities like San Marcos and Wimberley after record flooding along the Blanco River.

Since then, volunteers have come out in force to help people dealing with the aftermath.

At a former Target in San Marcos, instead of aisle after aisle of merchandise, table after table is covered in donations. Diane Insley, the coordinator at this donation center, lists off all of the donations they have.

"Cleaning supplies, mops, tools to rip out sheet rock that’s been damaged. We also have basic food, non perishable food items, a lot of bottled water, some brand new clothing, some basic shoes and then we have baby items, personal hygiene, deodorant soaps, Clorox bleach, laundry detergent...," she points out. 

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2015 Legislature
10:24 am
Thu May 28, 2015

Why Statewide Officers Might Pack Up and Leave Austin

A constitutional amendment that will show up on the November 2015 ballot would remove the requirement for certain statewide officers to live in Austin for the entire four years of their terms.
Liang Shi/KUT News

Under a measure passed by the Texas House and Senate (SJR 52), statewide office-holders would be able to live outside of Austin — but voters will have a say first.

Since 1876, the Texas Constitution has required certain statewide officials to live in the state capital, and that hasn’t changed. On Wednesday, however, the Texas House approved a measure that would allow statewide officials to live somewhere other than Austin if they want to. While they would likely reside in Austin during lawmaking sessions, they wouldn't have to keep a permanent residence in Travis County for the duration of their four-year terms.

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2015 Legislature
3:54 pm
Mon May 25, 2015

Bill Restricting Abortion for Some Minors Gets First Approval from Texas Senate

The Texas Senate gave a first OK to HB 3994 on May 25, 2015. The bill restricts how certain minors can get an abortion in Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A bill (House Bill 3994) that would add restrictions to how minors can bypass the state’s parental consent law to get an abortion was approved by the Texas Senate today.

What’s called the judicial bypass bill received plenty of roadblocks from opponents, however. 

Before the bill was even brought up for a vote, opponents in the Senate had hours’ worth of questions about what the bill would require a minor and a judge to do.

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2015 Legislature
10:27 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Bill Protecting Pastors Who Refuse to Marry Same-Sex Couples Gets First OK

A bill, SB 2065, that would protect churches and clergy who don't want to marry a same-sex couple, is one step short of heading to Gov. Greg Abbott for a signature.
Morguefile/flickr

Religious objections to gay marriage would be protected from lawsuits, if a bill passed by the Texas House becomes law.

It got a first OK Thursday by the House and is expected to get final passage today. 

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Affordable Care Act
12:45 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Texas Hospitals Could Lose Billions Without Medicaid Waiver

If the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doesn't renew the Texas 1115 Medicaid transformation waiver in 2016, hospitals could lose billions in federal funding.
Nathan Bernier/KUT

A waiver program that provides billions of dollars for Texas hospitals expires next year, and a panel of House lawmakers is asking state health officials if they have a Plan B. 

The 1115 Medicaid transformation waiver, among other things, gives billions in federal dollars to Texas hospitals that provide care for patients who don't have health insurance.  

In 2013, Texas spent almost $4 billion in what's called "uncompensated care" for low-income Texans.

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2015 Legislature
8:09 am
Thu May 7, 2015

Border Security Bill Divides Texas Senators Along Party Lines

The Texas Senate passed a bill on May 6, 2015 that would create an inter-state southern border compact to secure the border.
flickr.com/xomiele

On Wednesday, Texas Senators passed a bill (SB 1252) that would create an inter-state southern border compact — a group of states that would share resources to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the bill.

It didn't pass, however, before Democrats and Republicans brought up their differences on the need for border security. 

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Texas
7:39 am
Thu May 7, 2015

Travis County Teens Don't Talk Enough About Safe Sex, Report Says

The number of babies born to Texas teens is at lowest level in decades.
flickr via myloonyland

Teens in Travis County say they’re not getting taught about safe sex, and parents say they don’t know how to talk to their kids about it, according to a new report from the University of Texas and the Healthy Youth Partnership. [Read a PDF version of the report here.]

Travis County, and Texas as a whole,  have higher teen birth rates than the country overall, which the new report attributes to teens receiving misinformation about birth control, an embarrassment associated with buying condoms and peer pressure surrounding sex.

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