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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Austin
12:20 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Austin Honors Soldier With Young Spirit Who Died in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Job Reigoux died in Afghanistan on June 1, 2013.
Department of Defense via Fort Stewart

The nickname Carmen Reigoux had for her 30-year-old brother Job still makes her laugh.  

"We would call him Dumbo, my little brother called him Master Splinter because you have a pointy nose like a rat, and the big ears," she recalled.

But, she says, he was also very handsome. 

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Politics
5:05 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Senate to Vote on Court-Drawn Legislative Districts

The Senate will debate whether to go with the districts used in 2012.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A plan to use court-drawn political boundaries is on its way to the full Texas Senate.

Today the Senate Committee on Redistricting approved the district boundaries set by a federal court in San Antonio for the 2012 elections.

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Politics
5:51 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Abortion, Transportation Funding Among Issues Added to Session

Texas lawmakers will be addressing more topics during the 2013 special session.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is giving Texas lawmakers more to deal with in the special session, adding this afternoon proposed legislation on abortions and  on mandatory life sentences with parole for 17 year olds charged with capital murder.

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, is the author of House Bill 16, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks with some exceptions.

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Education
4:02 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Now That 'Ink's Dry' on HB 5, Future of Texas Education Bill Secured

Gov. Rick Perry shakes hands with Senate Education Chair Dan Patrick as State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, author of House Bill 5, laughs in the center on June 10, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Speculation over a major overhaul of public education in Texas ended today when Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5. 

The measure drops required standardized exams, known as the STAAR tests, from 15 to 5.

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Austin
5:36 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Austin Area Patriot Guard Riders Honor Local World War II Veteran

Keith Longacre is a member of the Austin area Patriot Guard Riders who honored a deceased veteran on June 7, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

An Austin U.S. Army World War II veteran was laid to rest today. Domingo Urias was part of the second wave of the D-Day invasion, 69 years ago this week.

“He was tasked with assessing all the German concentration camps in Germany," said his grandson, David St.George, also a veteran. "So his job as a military policeman was to protect and guard the General. Grandpa was a very hard-nosed veteran. Very hard-working man. He was just a great guy."

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Politics
4:25 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

As Special Session Lengthens, Cost to Texas Taxpayers Grows

State Sen. Kel Seliger, right, and State Sen. Carlos Uresti at a Senate Redistricting Committee hearing on June 6, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The Texas Senate is recessed until June 12 and the House until June 17 as lawmakers hear public testimony on the 2012 court-drawn voting maps. What does that mean for a possible price tag?

If the special session lasts the full 30 days, the Legislative Budget Board says it would cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, is the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee. He says the work has value.

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Politics
5:20 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Use of Political Lines on Texas Maps Upsets Voters, Lawmakers

The Texas Legislature has started hosting hearings across the state for voter input on the interim maps.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, was on the redistricting committee ten years ago. She's not on it this year but says special sessions on voting maps tend to be similar.

"Most other issues you can compromise, you can negotiate, but redistricting becomes so political," Sen. Nelson said.

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Politics
5:16 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

House Panel to Travel For 'Broad Input' on Interim Voting Maps

The House Redistricting Committee will hear testimony in three Texas cities this month.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Texans who want to offer opinions on the state’s political boundaries don’t have to do it here in Austin.

The opportunity is being expanded to other cities. State Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said today he wants "broad input" on the voting maps’ deficiencies and how to fix them.

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Politics
4:09 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Austin Remains Home to Lawmakers Through Mid-June

State Rep. Drew Darby, left, and State Sen. Kel Seliger speak on May 30, 2013 before the Senate Redistricting Committee hearing at the Capitol.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

It’s all about redrawn political lines these days at the Texas Capitol, and at today’s first hearing of the Senate Redistricting Committee, more questions arose.

But one thing has become clear: Lawmakers will be in Austin at least until mid-June.

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Politics
8:09 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Budget Breakdown: What Texas Lawmakers Approved

State Rep. Jim Pitts, chief budget writer in the House, left, and House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel, right, are surrounded by House members during discussion over a budget-related measure on May 25, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Amid all the other items on the agenda, the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature had as its primary task: passing a budget bill. Last Sunday, lawmakers praised the budget deal they'd pass before midnight. State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is the House’s chief budget writer.

"By doing all the good things that are in this budget…we are still able to increase the state budget by a percentage of less than one percent per year with adjusted dollars," Rep. Pitts said.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Questions Arise on Alternative Maps as Special Session Begins

House Speaker Joe Straus, left, and House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel mark the end of the 83rd legislative session on May 27, 2013, a day before the special began.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Members of the Texas House were gaveled in this morning for the first full day of a special session on redistricting, after the Senate started last night. 

Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers to a 30-day session Monday evening specifically to address the Texas House, Senate and Congressional maps. These were drawn by federal judges and used in the 2012 elections. A federal court ruled that maps drawn by Texas lawmakers in 2011 didn’t comply with the Voting Rights Act.

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Politics
1:47 am
Mon May 27, 2013

As Final Hour Approaches, 83rd Legislature Begins Winding Down

State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, sits back briefly near the end of the session's penultimate day, May 26, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The legislative session ends today – meaning lawmakers had a late final night of debating and voting on bills before today's mostly ceremonial end. Lawmakers did finally pass the one bill they’re constitutionally required to -- the state budget.

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Politics
3:13 pm
Sat May 25, 2013

Saturday Update: Legislature Honors Fallen Soldiers, Continues Last-Minute Work on Bills

Gov. Rick Perry addresses a joint session of the Texas Legislature to honor fallen members of the military on May 25, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Members of the Texas House and Senate are at their desks this afternoon as the Legislature continues to work in the final days of the 83rd session. 

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, says they expect to bring up Senate Bill 1, the budget bill, on Sunday. He was one of the House members who worked with Senators in the conference committee on SB 1.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Texas Lawmakers Begin to Iron Out Differences on Spending Bill

Gov. Perry visited the Texas House on May 24, 2013, but refused to comment on the budget-related bills of this session.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House have expressed concern over the version of the supplemental spending bill that came out of the Senate on Wednesday. 

The contentious measure is House Bill 1025. Among its provisions, it appropriates roughly $4 billion for expenses from the rainy day fund, a pot of money that conservatives would prefer not to tap as much. It's considered the state's savings account, generated mostly from oil and gas tax revenues.

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Education
4:58 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

CSCOPE to Cease Making Lesson Plans for Texas Public Schools

Dr. Kyle Wargo, member of CSCOPE's governing board, speaks at a Capitol press conference on May 20, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update: In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill says CSCOPE's decision to remove all lessons plans from its website is a "recognition of the concerns raised by Texas parents, State Board of Education members and legislators. 

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Health
9:00 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Protesters Get Unexpected Medicaid Meeting with Gov. Perry

Connie Paredes with the Texas Organizing Project spoke to the media after she had a conversation with Gov. Rick Perry about Medicaid expansion on May 22, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Health care protestors who interrupted Gov. Rick Perry during a speech yesterday afternoon were surprised that he offered to meet with them in exchange for letting him continue his talk.   

Gov. Perry has called Medicaid “broken” and a “fool’s errand.” Despite his adamant stance against expanding the entitlement program, at least 20 protesters with the Texas Organizing Project wanted to discuss it with him.

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Politics
6:55 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Texas Senator Says Campus Carry Bill Has Slim Survival Chance

State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a sponsor of a House campus carry bill, said Senate Democrats won't give him the votes he needs to pass the measure as of May 22, 2013.
Photo by kcdsTM http://www.flickr.com/photos/kcdstm/2220683741/

Update (May 23, 2013): A slew of gun bills that passed out of the House earlier this month did not make it to the Senate floor by the deadline to consider all House bills.

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Politics
2:55 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Bill on Drug Testing of State Aid Recipients Gets Initial Approval

Texas House lawmakers tentatively passed a bill that would require drug testing of people getting unemployment benefits.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update (May 25, 2013):  
Both the House and Senate have passed this bill, sending it to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for his approval.


Original story:
The Texas House split on a couple of bills that would drug test recipients of state aid. A midnight deadline passed before lawmakers could vote on a bill that would drug test recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

But earlier in the day lawmakers did pass testing for unemployment benefits.

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Politics
7:36 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Texas Ethics Commission Bill Gets Initial House Approval

Members of the Texas House passed a bill that makes changes to the Texas Ethics Commission, among other provisions.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

State lawmakers had a lengthy debate on the House floor Monday when they took up, and passed, a Senate bill that would make changes to a key commission. One that determines the rules state officials must follow. 

The measure by State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would make changes to the Texas Ethics Commission, which provides rulemaking and oversight for state officials, like lawmakers, executives and judges, as well as lobbyists and state agency employees.

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Politics
6:33 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Budget Bill Gets Tentative Approval from Texas Lawmakers

A partial view of the budget bill conference committee on May 17, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Lawmakers left a vote on the toughest and most important bill to the week's end. At the start of today, Democrats remained unhappy with funding for public education.

"They did an increase in the budget for the [Texas School for the Blind and Texas School for the Deaf]. Well you can’t count that as new money in the budget towards public education. So it’s just a sham of a proposal in my judgment."

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