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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HB2
9:29 am
Mon January 6, 2014

U.S. Appeals Court to Hear Texas Abortion Law Case

The John Minor Wisdom U.S. Courthouse, home of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Credit photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

State officials and plaintiffs suing on behalf of Texas abortion providers are due back in court this morning.

The case being heard this morning was launched by abortion rights advocates hoping to overturn a state statute - known as HB2 - that regulates abortions. It was passed by the Texas Legislature in July and has since been tied up in a legal battle that has been appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

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Texas
9:18 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Firearm Parts Maker Packing Up in Colorado, Moving to Texas

Magpul Industries announced on Jan. 2, 2014 that it's moving its headquarters from Colorado to Texas. Manufacturing will go to Wyoming.

Magpul Industries makes firearm magazines and accessories. It’s based in Erie, Colo., near Boulder. But it’s moving its headquarters to Texas.

Director of product management and marketing Duane Liptak says Magpul's decision is a result of Colorado’s new legislation that limits sales of firearm accessories and imposes universal background checks.

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Texas
9:55 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Don't Bid Auf Wiedersehen to Texas German Just Yet

The Saengerrunde Damenchor began singing in 1959 at the Austin Saengerrunde. The women usually rehearse on Monday evenings.
David Weaver

Texas is the only place in the world where you can find an unusual hybrid of German and English. 

This Texas-German dialect stretches back to the 1800s, before Texas was even a state, when German immigrants arrived here. While the number of speakers dwindles, Texas-German pride hasn't. 

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Texas
3:15 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Mixed Drinks Could Be Served With Higher Price, As New Texas Law Goes Into Effect

A mixed drink in Texas could cost you more starting Jan. 1, 2014 in Texas.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

If you order a mixed drink in Texas tomorrow, you might see the price on your bill higher than what you’re used to. That’s because of a new state law that goes into effect on Jan. 1.

In Texas, if a bar sells you a mixed drink, it has to give 14 percent of what you pay back to the state. And that tax doesn’t show up on your receipt.

If the bar only sells beer and wine, it doesn't pay that tax. In that case the customer pays a sales tax of 8.25 percent. And that does show up on the receipt.

Tomorrow – on Jan. 1 – a new law goes into effect, which changes that. 

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Books
10:31 am
Tue December 31, 2013

In 'Midnight in Mexico,' Alfredo Corchado Searches for Home

Alfredo Corchado recently spoke with KUT about his memoir, "Midnight in Mexico."
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Dallas Morning News correspondent Alfredo Corchado has been reporting in Mexico over the past 20 years.

He left the U.S. for Mexico in 1994 – a decision that’s long frustrated his mother. She and his father had moved his family to the U.S. to work as migrant farmers decades earlier.

Corchado writes about his troubled relationship with his birth country in his memoir, “Midnight in Mexico.” A movie is in the works. He recently spoke to KUT about his experiences. 

Affordable Care Act
3:35 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Testimony Begins on Proposed Texas Rules for Obamacare Navigators

Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber listened to testimony at a public hearing on proposed rules for health insurance navigators in Austin on Dec. 20, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Lawmakers and members of the public testified on new Texas-only rules for the Affordable Care Act on Dec. 20 in Austin.

The new rules would restrict who can become a health insurance "navigator" under the Affordable Care Act. These proposed rules have caused controversy: critics say they're meant to impede the success of the federal health care law, whereas supporters say they will teach navigators how to safeguard consumers' information.

The Texas Department of Insurance wrote the proposed rules to regulate navigators. They're already required to go through a federal training before they help people sign up for insurance through the new federal healthcare exchange.

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Affordable Care Act
11:01 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

How to Find, Comment On Proposed Texas Rules for Health Insurance Navigators

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promoted the Affordable Care Act and federal health insurance exchanges in Austin on Aug. 8, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the proposed rules from the Texas Department of Insurance.

You may have heard the term navigators lately – they’re the volunteers who can help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

They go through an online federal training to learn how to help people navigate the federally-run marketplace, though they can't tell anyone which plan to buy. Earlier this year, a number of agencies in Texas received almost $11 million collectively to pay for their training.

Now the Texas Department of Insurance has written proposed state rules that would add 40 hours of training and require a background check for navigators.

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Halloween Floods
8:07 am
Wed December 18, 2013

After Flooding, Medical Care Remains Critical in Dove Springs

Mayra Lopez, a promotora de salud with the Latino Health Care Forum, spoke at the Dove Springs Recreation Center on Dec. 17, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Community health workers – or promotoras de salud – with the Latino Health Care Forum are collecting data about people still living in Dove Springs after the Halloween floods.

"We have heard a lot of really sad stories …you just start crying," says promotora Norma Lopez. “We’re going to be working on-hand with our people. Refer them to whatever they need, any kind of help.”

Promotoras say they spent about a month getting feedback from people who still need help, especially medical care. The results will identify Dove Springs families still in need.

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Politics
12:51 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Note to Texas Candidates: Female Voters Cast More Ballots Than Men

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte greeted female supporters on Nov. 26, 2013 at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Democrats see themselves as having at least one potential advantage in next year’s statewide elections: two women at the top of the ticket.

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia van de Putte are hoping to attract more women voters to the polls.

But both Democrats and Republicans in Texas have particular challenges in courting the female vote.

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Affordable Care Act
11:52 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Texas' Hands Off Approach to Obamacare Impacts Canceled Health Plans

U.S. Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius discussed the Affordable Care Act in Austin on Aug. 8, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Carl Bergquist is on the hunt for health insurance. That’s because in September, the 43-year-old Austinite got a letter from his insurer, Aetna.

"It said that the Affordable Care Act is changing health insurance. And then it says it will affect your health insurance plan," Bergquist says. "It says your policy will end on December 31, you need to buy a new plan."

Bergquist’s plan didn’t meet the basic requirements of the Affordable Care Act. So he had two options. One, he could buy a new plan right now that’s identical to what he has now and pay the same price for one year. Or he could buy a plan that goes into effect in January that meets the ACA’s requirements.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Should Texas Pay Power Companies Just For Opening New Plants?

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. But some lawmakers have voiced concerns.
Jessie Wang for KUT News

The Public Utility Commission of Texas is proposing a change to the way the state’s electricity market is run. And some lawmakers voiced concerns during a public hearing at the Capitol yesterday.

The Texas Senate Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing to question the Public Utility Commission, or PUC, about the possible change to the market.

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Affordable Care Act
5:00 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Effect on Texas Consumers Unclear as Obama Delays Health Insurance Plan Cancellations

President Barack Obama’s decision to allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that would be canceled under the Affordable Care Act has an unclear affect on Texans.
Filipa Rodrigues

President Barack Obama’s decision to allow insurance companies to continue offering policies that would be canceled under the Affordable Care Act has an unclear effect on Texans.

In an announcement today, the President said he is leaving it up to states and state insurance commissioners to decide if consumers can keep these plans through 2014.

In a written statement, Texas Governor Rick Perry said the decision makes a bad situation worse, by creating more confusion for consumers. John Davidson with the Texas Public Policy Foundation agrees.

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Halloween Floods
4:45 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Austin Flood Survivors Say Questions Keep Mounting as Answers Fall Short

People gathered at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs on Nov. 13, 2013, to get more information after the Halloween Floods devastated their homes.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State lawmakers hosted a town hall meeting in a Dove Springs school last night. It’s not the first meeting for victims of the Halloween flooding, but many are still facing the same frustrations as they grapple with more questions than answers about the future of their homes.

At Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs, the scene was familiar – dozens of flood survivors gathered inside a school cafeteria to get help.  

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was present to try and answer questions from people like Lillie Flores, whose house was gutted by the flood. She was frustrated, trying to figure out more about a new fund that Rep. Rodriguez has helped set up with State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin. It's the Austin-Travis County Flood Relief Fund.

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Affordable Care Act
7:11 am
Tue November 12, 2013

How Obamacare Supporters Are Enrolling Texas Latinos

Jill Ramirez, director of Austin's Latino Health Care Forum, speaks to Latinos at an Oct. 5, 2013 car show about the federally-run health insurance marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

A push to get people to buy health insurance through the federal marketplace has included plenty of visits from federal officials.

Last week, President Barack Obama told an audience of volunteers in Dallas that affordable health insurance is a pretty big deal in this state.

"There’s no state that actually needs this more than Texas," President Obama says. 

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Affordable Care Act
2:00 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Texas Drafting Extra Requirements for Obamacare Navigators

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott renewed his call for more consumer protection and privacy requirements for Obamacare navigators this week.
Bob Daemmrich, flickr.com/thetexastribune

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has renewed his call for additional training and privacy requirements for “navigators” that help Texas consumers sign up for health insurance through the federally-run Affordable Care Act marketplace.

This week, Abbott wrote a letter to Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber asking her department to draft new privacy standards. In August, Abbott and 12 other attorneys general sent a letter citing privacy concerns to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

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Halloween Floods
11:20 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Rebuilding After Austin Floods? Watch Out For These Health Hazards

Ricardo Fabian removes damp insulation from the walls of his house in Dove Springs. Volunteers are needed to help clean up after the recent flooding in southeast Austin, but experts urge people to head down prepared.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Halloween flooding in Onion Creek devastated an already underserved community in southeast Austin. Now, people like 18-year-old Frank Amaya need help with the cleanup of their streets and neighborhoods.

"My home was flooded. All three cars were totaled. My Dodge ended up in a forest all crushed with other cars," Amaya said. He was one of the hundreds of people who came to Perez Elementary School Tuesday night to vent frustrations with city officials and learn about recovery efforts.

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Halloween Floods
11:28 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Austin Police Chief Acevedo Apologizes for Onion Creek Flood Response

More than 500 people came to Perez Elementary School in Dove Springs to learn about flood recovery efforts on Nov. 5, 2013.
KUT

More than 500 people crammed into the cafeteria of Perez Elementary School in Dove Springs, where city officials — including Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo and Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald  — answered questions about recovery efforts.

Dove Springs residents expressed anger when City Deputy Manager Michael McDonald said Red Cross and Austin Fire began rescues early Thursday morning, with one resident shouting, "No! No one came to my house!"

But the tone of the meeting shifted visibly when Police Chief Art Acevedo took to the microphone and apologized for inconsistencies in the city's response.

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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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