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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This evening, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will meet with the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade.

This meeting has been months in the making. Texas and Mexico put so much effort into their relationship, and not just because they’re geographically close. Between exports and imports, the amount of money that crosses the Mexico-Texas border is nearly $1 billion a day.

The total traded between the two in 2014 was $336 billion, according to the U.S.-Mexico trade report from the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. [Read a pdf of the report here.]

Isaac Sanchez/flickr

Some conservative groups are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the golden-cheeked warbler from the list of endangered species.

But environmentalists say the species, which thrives here in Central Texas, should remain on the list because its numbers aren’t strong.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

It doesn't matter if it's 100 degrees out or it's raining – if you want to eat at Austin's Franklin Barbecue you have to wait in a line for an average of about five hours. That's no secret.

But in the last year, a growing number of people, like Desmond Roldan, have started making money off of that line. And for them, the longer the line, the better.

KUT News

Vaccines have been in the news yet again lately. On June 30, 2015, California’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires almost all school children to be fully vaccinated in order to go to school, allowing only some medical exemptions.

Meantime, a health care company in Central Texas says it will no longer treat children who don’t get fully immunized. The company cites a measles outbreak that started in Disneyland last year as a chief reason for the policy change. Texas does allow parents to opt out of vaccinations if they use religious or personal beliefs. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Photo courtesy wallyg,

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.

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. 

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.

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."

Alexa Ura/Texas Tribune

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.