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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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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Affordable Care Act
4:57 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

As Marketplace Launches, Central Texas Groups Push for Insurance Outreach

United Way and Central Health navigation specialists answer phone calls on Oct. 1, 2013, the launch date of the federal health insurance marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Austin officials and health advocates expressed excitement for the launch of the federally-run health insurance marketplace today. But they are also reminding people that outreach efforts have a long way to go.

“It is our responsibility to get the word out," said Central Health’s Rosie Mendoza during a press conference at United Way. "It’s everyone’s responsibility here today to help us do that.”

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Affordable Care Act
8:31 am
Tue October 1, 2013

LISTEN: Profiles of Uninsured in Texas as Marketplace Opens

Paula Phillips of San Marcos lacks health insurance and struggles to put money aside for medical bills. She may not qualify for a health insurance tax credit and is too young for Medicare.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Central Texas has more than 100,000 uninsured people – some of whom may decide to get coverage through the health insurance marketplace that launches today.

On the player below, listen to interviews with three Central Texans who are uninsured – about their health care situation – and what they might do as the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

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Affordable Care Act
4:32 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Texas 'Obamacare' Navigators Testify Against Extra Training Requirements

From left to right: Sam Brown, Kursten Berry and Demetrio Selman are navigators who have been trained by Houston nonprofit Change Happens.
KUT News

The Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance marketplace opens in Texas tomorrow. Workers known as navigators will help Texans sign up for health insurance. But these navigators are at the center of a political debate in Texas. 

Gov. Rick Perry recently directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to come up with more training and regulations for navigators. He based his directive on a new law authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, called Senate Bill 1795. 

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Affordable Care Act
6:30 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Texas 'Obamacare' Navigators at Center of Dispute (Update)

On Sept. 30, 2013, the Texas Department of Insurance expects to begin the process of writing new rules that add extra training for health care navigators, despite training enforced by the federal government.

Update: The Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace opens tomorrow. Insurance navigators will be available in certain parts of the state to help Texans sort through coverage options. But Gov. Rick Perry wants navigators in Texas to have extra training. Gov. Perry proposes to require 40 hours of training on top of what’s mandated by the federal government.

The Texas Department of Insurance hosted a public meeting in Austin this morning to get feedback on that rule and others. The meeting took place  in the Hobby Building on Guadalupe Street.

Original post (Sept. 24): Next week, the Texas Department of Insurance expects to begin the process of writing new rules that add extra training for health care navigators. Those are the workers who are supposed to help people shop on the new insurance marketplace.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Lawsuit Against Texas Abortion Law Gets Trial Date in Federal Court

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, speaks before the July 2013 launch of the "Stand With Texas Women" statewide bus tour of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. It was a campaign against House Bill 2.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Planned Parenthood – together with several other groups -- filed a lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, in a federal court in Austin on Sept. 27. The aim is to block certain provisions of a new Texas law that restricts abortions.   

The preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 21 before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin. 

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Texas Abortion Law
4:27 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

You May Now Comment on Texas' New Rules for Abortion Clinics (Update)

People, some purposely in orange, came to testify before the Texas State Health Services Council on rules written by the health department that specify what abortion clinics must do to operate legally in Texas. The meeting took place on Aug. 28, 2013.
KUT News

Update: As of today, new specific rules regulating Texas abortion facilities are available for public comment.

The rules were drafted in response to House Bill 2, the abortion-restricting Texas law that Gov. Rick Perry signed in July. As the department that regulates abortion clinics in Texas, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) wrote the specific rules after interpreting the Legislature’s intent.

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Tobacco Tax
12:13 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Smoking Study Suggests Tobacco Tax Could Fund Texas Preschools

A new study suggests a 94-cent tax hike on cigarettes would help fund Texas preschools.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Results of a new study by Gallup suggest smoking causes U.S. employers to lose $278 billion annually. That's due to smokers missing work for smoke breaks and because of additional health care costs compared to employees who don't smoke.

The data comes a day after another study, "Raising Smart, Healthy Kids in Every State" was released. It argues states would benefit from a 94-cent tax hike on cigarettes, as proposed by President Barack Obama. 

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Affordable Care Act
9:04 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Texas Parents May Soon Find Cheaper Health Insurance for Children

The new federal healthcare marketplace opening Oct. 1 could help families struggling to cover their children finally find an affordable plan.
flickr.com/hocolibrary

The new federal healthcare marketplace opening Oct. 1 could help families struggling to cover their children finally find an affordable plan. But the marketplace could also become a safety net for families on the verge of earning just enough to kick their children off of the current state and federally subsidized healthcare plans.

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Affordable Care Act
4:32 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

This Austin Group Helps You Navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace

Congressman Lloyd Doggett spoke on Sept. 24, 2013 at a center run by Foundation Communities, where certified application counselors will help consumers with questions about the federal health insurance marketplace.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

In a former storefront in Central Austin’s Highland Mall, a health care enrollment center is getting set up.

It’s one of dozens of centers in Texas where certified application counselors will help answer people's questions about buying health insurance via the new federal marketplace. 

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