Veronica Zaragovia

State Reporter

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. 

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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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HB2
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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Tejano Trails
5:09 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Trails in a Changing East Austin Preserve Decades of Tejano History

Johnny Degollado, Tejano music legend, plays his accordion at the outdoor venue named in his honor – the Johnny Degollado Pavillion at Fiesta Gardens.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Many Latinos in Texas can trace their history back to the 1690s. They're descendants of Spanish, Mexican and indigenous people who were here when the land was subject to the Spanish crown, then later a part of the sovereign state of Mexico, the Republic of Texas and, finally, the United States.

They don’t consider themselves either Mexican or Anglo-Texan. They’re Tejanos, and they always have been.  Now, a six-mile path through Austin aims to preserve some of that history.

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HB2
5:23 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Abortion Provider To Reopen Clinic in Texas, Expands to New Mexico

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, stands outside the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A federal appeals court will hear arguments next week over Texas’ new abortion law, after a federal judge in Austin struck down parts of that law last week.

Since that ruling, one abortion provider announced plans to reopen at least one clinic that closed due to the new requirements, and it says it will add a new clinic in New Mexico.

The company is also launching an initiative intended to remove what it calls the stigma of abortion.

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Politics
9:25 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Differ Most on Education, Wendy Davis Says

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, talks about education in Austin on Aug. 27, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat running for Texas governor, talked education in Austin today. She offered few specifics on what she would do, but instead tried to highlight differences between her and her opponent.

Sen. Davis says she and Attorney General Greg Abbott couldn’t be any more different on how they view education in Texas.

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Perry Indictment
12:20 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Perry Lawyers Will File Motion to Dismiss Indictments

Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press and supporters outside the Travis County Criminal Justice Complex on August 19, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

A Travis County judge is giving Governor Rick Perry’s criminal defense attorneys until next Friday to file a motion to dismiss the two felony charges against him.

Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin on felony charges for abuse of his office. He allegedly threatened to veto funds for Travis County's Public Integrity Unit, an anti-corruption unit, unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, didn’t resign in the wake of drunk driving arrest in 2013.

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Aging
7:39 am
Fri August 22, 2014

As Austin's South Asian Community Swells, Seniors Seek More Interaction

The growing community of South Asian seniors in Austin are pushing for more opportunities to cook and eat together as their numbers swell.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

South Asian Indians make up the largest portion of Asian Americans in Austin, and within that group, seniors need meals and social interaction as much as anyone else. Many are isolated at home, however, and say free meal delivery programs don’t follow dietary restrictions.

As a result, a growing group of seniors of South Asian descent want a community kitchen to help meet their needs.

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Perry Indictment
9:09 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Rick Perry's Attorneys Dismiss Claim Veto Had Link to Cancer Agency Probe

Gov. Rick Perry arrives at the Travis County criminal justice center to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken on Aug. 19, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's legal team is fighting back against allegations from his political opponents, who have suggested the reason Perry vetoed funding for a legal unit that investigates public corruption was because it was investigating him.

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Mental Health
4:26 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

More People Getting Access to Mental Health Care After Boost in State Spending

A panel of Texas senators received an update Aug. 15, 2014 on what's being accomplished in mental health services after a boost in state spending approved by the 83rd Legislature in 2013.
Liang Shi for KUT

Texas is spending more money on mental health now than it has in more than a decade, and today, state lawmakers got to hear about what that money is accomplishing.

Some of the numbers on mental health services in Texas have lawmakers patting themselves on the back.

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Affordable Care Act
10:46 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Although Texas Leaders Aren't Expanding Medicaid, Enrollment Numbers Slated to Jump

On Aug. 14, 2014, ahead of the next legislative session, state senators talked about one of the most politically divisive federal programs, Medicaid.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

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.

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HB2
5:30 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

After Closing Arguments in Case Against Texas' Abortion Law, Parties Await Ruling

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel heard closing arguments in a case against the newest Texas abortion law on Aug. 13, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Abortion clinics in Texas have until Sept. 1 to meet the standards of hospital-style surgical centers. Providers say that will force all but a handful of clinics in Texas to close down. Today, a federal judge in Austin heard closing arguments for and against certain provisions in the state's newest abortion law.

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Immigration
9:59 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Texas Accounts For 16 Percent of Children Seeking Asylum Under Controversial Law

Volunteers at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have recently crossed into the U.S.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Two years ago, the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

It provides temporary legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally, but two years in, some estimates say only about half of people eligible for the program have applied.

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Aging
9:05 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Older Job Seekers in Texas Struggle to Find Jobs, But Find Strength in Numbers

Nancy Ruiz gets her photo taken for her LinkedIn profile at a meeting of the Launch Pad job club in Austin on Aug. 6, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

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.

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HB2
5:12 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Texas Abortion Law Trial Almost Over, But Both Sides Ready For Step Two

A federal trial against Texas’ newest abortion law, HB2, wraps up on Aug. 7, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Update (5:07 p.m.): U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has scheduled closing arguments in a federal trial against the state's newest abortion law for next Wednesday, Aug. 13, in the morning, after witness testimony concluded today.

The plaintiffs hope Judge Yeakel will strike down a provision that requires abortions only take place at ambulatory surgical centers. And that the provision requiring doctors to receive admitting privileges at  hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform the procedure will be struck down for physicians in El Paso and McAllen.

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