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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Politics
5:25 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Texas Supreme Court Weighs Same-Sex Divorce Cases

Two pending same-sex divorce cases are heading to the Texas Supreme Court. The combined oral arguments on these consolidated cases are scheduled for Nov. 5.
Morguefile

Update: Two same-sex divorce cases are now in the hands of the nine Texas Supreme Court justices to decide. Today they heard oral arguments on whether Texas can grant these couples a divorce. 

In 2005, a majority of Texans voted to ban gay marriage. But now, the Texas Supreme Court must decide whether litigation involving two gay couples who wed in Massachusetts – one based in Austin, the other in Dallas – can get divorced in Texas.

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House Bill 2
10:02 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Texas Abortion Providers Ask Supreme Court to Intervene in Bid to Block New Rules

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, takes a photo with an abortion rights advocate after her filibuster against a restrictive abortion law in Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Update: Plaintiffs in a lawsuit aiming to block new abortion regulations in Texas have filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a lower court's injunction against portions of Texas' new abortion law. Read the entire emergency application here.

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Politics
5:56 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

In Austin, Biden Announces Funding for Domestic Abuse Hotline

Vice President Joe Biden visited the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Austin on Oct. 30, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Vice President Joe Biden visited Austin today to announce that the underfunded 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline will be getting more dollars.

He helped create the hotline when the Violence Against Women Act that he sponsored in Congress was passed in 1994. 

Since 1996, "in most cases, the voice a woman in distress hears is yours -- the folks here in Austin, Texas," he told a small, packed room of activists, stakeholders and staff. "They're prisoners in plain sight. And the only voice so many of them hear is the people at the other end of the line here."

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Affordable Care Act
9:38 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Rural Texas Has Fewer Obamacare Choices - And Less Expensive Plans

Though people in urban Texas who buy health insurance on the federally-run marketplace have dozens of plans to choose from, they're not cheaper than in rural Texas.
healthcare.gov

One of the big promises of the Affordable Care Act was that encouraging insurance companies to compete to sell their health plans would drive down prices.

Here in Austin, people who choose to buy health insurance on the federally-run health insurance marketplace have dozens of plans to choose from. Texans in many rural parts of the state will find far fewer. But they're not necessarily more expensive than in urban parts.

Take Loving County. It's pretty rural. According to the Census Bureau, just 71 people were living in this West Texas county in 2012, down from 82 in 2010.

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Abortion Law Lawsuit
12:58 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

State Appeals Ruling Striking Down Part of Texas Abortion Law

Attorney General Greg Abbott greets supporters of House Bill 2, the state's new restrictive law on abortion.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed yesterday’s ruling striking down part of the state’s new restrictions on abortion.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics was unconstitutional. Judge Yeakel partially allowed another provision to stand, ruling a new requirement that doctors follow FDA protocol for dispensing abortion-inducing drugs was not an undue burden – unless the woman’s life was in danger due to the pregnancy.

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Abortion
4:15 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Federal Ruling In: Part of Texas' New Abortion Law is Unconstitutional

A Texas Capitol protest this summer. A federal judge blocked certain provisions of a restrictive Texas abortion law today.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Update: With a federal judge blocking enforcement of a key restriction on abortion in Texas, here’s reaction from Gov. Rick Perry:

“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”

NARAL Pro Choice America President Ilyse Hogue:

"We are pleased but not surprised by this development. It has been clear from day one that the laws advanced by Governor Perry and others are unconstitutional and put women at greater risk. We will continue to fight to ensure all parts of this law, and other laws restricting women's health care options, which are clearly unconstitutional are defeated."


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Affordable Care Act
4:33 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Sebelius Vows to Fix Obamacare Site, Calls for Texas Medicaid Expansion

Central Health CEO Patricia Young Brown, left, and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell join Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a CommUnity Care clinic in Austin on Oct. 25, 2013.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

With all of the attention on the health care marketplace website problems, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Austin today for some damage control. 

Sebelius went to CommUnityCare’s East Austin Health Center, where she promised that problems with healthcare.gov and its Spanish-language version will get fixed.

She also praised mayors across Texas for supporting Medicaid expansion, and urged state leaders to join them.

"I’m hoping that Texas takes another look at that opportunity because there will be millions of people still left on the side of the road with no affordable options," Sebelius said.

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Abortion Law Lawsuit
3:40 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

It's a Wrap: Lawyers Finish Arguments For, Against New Texas Abortion Law Provisions

Plaintiffs, their attorneys and assistants exit the federal courthouse in Austin on Oct. 23, 2013, after the HB 2 injunction hearing ended.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A federal judge in Austin now has the task of deciding the constitutionality of certain provisions in the state’s new laws on abortion.

The state argued that the plaintiffs don’t have proof to support the claim that one-third of abortion clinics in Texas will close on Oct. 29. That’s when the provision requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals goes into effect.

Andy Oldham argued on behalf of the state. He said no one can predict the future and said plaintiffs’ claims fall “like a house of cards."

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Abortion Law Lawsuit
6:48 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Plaintiffs Hope Judge Rules Parts of Texas Abortion Law Unconstitutional

L-R: Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman's Health, Janet Crepps of The Center for Reproductive Rights and Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas speak to reporters after day one of the abortion lawsuit hearing on Oct. 21, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A lawsuit attempting to block parts of a new restrictive abortion law is expected to wrap up today. Plaintiffs hope the judge will find certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 

Plaintiffs -- including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Whole Woman's Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights -- are challenging two key provisions of the abortion law, arguing each creates an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, which makes each unconstitutional.

One requires the physician to give two rounds of abortion-inducing medication to the patient in person. The second requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform the abortion.

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Affordable Care Act
12:47 pm
Sat October 19, 2013

At Texas Medical Conference, Ted Cruz Vows to Keep Fighting Obamacare

Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at the fall conference of the Texas Medical Association in Austin on Oct. 19, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Just a few days after the end of the partial government shutdown, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz addressed the Texas Medical Association at its fall conference in Austin on Saturday.

He vowed to continue his effort against Obamacare. "My job is to fight for 26 million Texans," Cruz said, "and the reason I have been fighting this fight is anywhere you go in the state of Texas...the answer is the same: Obamacare is the biggest job killer in the country."

Cruz chided fellow Senate Republicans who didn’t support House Republicans in their opposition to funding Obamacare.

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Hunting Season
8:36 am
Thu October 17, 2013

More Texas Latinos Are Seeking Hunter Education - In Spanish

A student points a pellet gun at a paper target, required as part of the curriculum taught in the Spanish-language Hunter Education course of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is handling an increased demand for hunter education from Latinos.

In recent years, the department has begun offering the course in Spanish. The move not only reflects the changing demographics of the state, but could also help Texas combat one of its most unwelcome pests. 

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ACL Cancellation
8:46 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Heavy Rains Soak Austin, Central Texas; ACL Festival Cancels Final Day

A flood warning remains in effect along the Colorado River for Travis and Bastrop Counties, and a flash flood watch for Central Texas remains in effect until this evening.
YNN Austin

Because of the weather, all of Austin Parks and Recreation systems trails are closed. Parks and Recreation also closed the Barton Springs Pool because of flooding, and all of Austin's golf courses are also closed. The Austin Police Department is urging limited driving on roads. 

Extreme flooding also impacted the Travis County wastewater lift station. It spilled 500,000 gallons of wastewater earlier this morning. The lift station, located at 4504 Travis Country Circle, has been repaired by Austin Water crews. Austin Water urges residents to avoid the area's creeks, though Austin Water's drinking water supply isn't affected.

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Turning the Corner
11:50 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Opening Soon in Dove Springs: A $2.4 Million Mental Health Clinic

Frances Acuña is one of thousands in Dove Springs who will seek mental health services at an intergrated care clinic opening in November 2013.
Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Donna Spencer and Iliana Gilman work with Austin Travis County Integral Care, the agency that provides mental health services for low-income residents in the area. They recently walked through the site of Integral Care’s soon-to-open $2.4 million facility, inside what used to be a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club.

It’s in the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. This low-income, majority Latino neighborhood is getting its first mental health care facility. It’s in large part because of a federal initiative, the Medicaid 1115 waiver program, that funds experimental clinics like this one. It will offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment, along with routine primary care.

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Affordable Care Act
8:51 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Despite Obamacare, Few Health Options for Texas' Undocumented Immigrants

Immigrants must be “lawfully present” in the U.S. to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
KUT News

It’s been a full week since the opening of the health insurance marketplaces created through the Affordable Care Act. But only certain people qualify to buy insurance through that system.

Immigrants must be “lawfully present” to qualify to buy through the marketplace. That includes Green Card holders, refugees, Cuban or Haitian immigrants, people on worker and student visas and victims of human trafficking. But the 1.5 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live Texas are not included.

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Politics
3:28 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Only Days Left for Texans to Register to Vote This November

Melinda Avey is a Geographic Information System coordinator for Travis County. She was helping people register to vote on the UT campus on Oct. 3, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

The last chance to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Monday. And there’s another wrinkle for some: This is the first statewide election that requires voters to show photo ID. 

If you don’t have one of six approved government-issued photo IDs to bring with you to vote on Nov. 5, you can get an election ID certificate. I spoke to Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant at a Fiesta supermarket in South Austin, where he was getting the word out near a table set up by Department of Public Safety staff.

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