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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Texas Legislature
7:57 am
Wed September 10, 2014

White Student Enrollment in Texas Higher Ed is Down for the Third Straight Year

For the third year in a row, white student enrollment in Texas' public colleges and universities is down, while minority group numbers are up.
KUT News

More people are attending public colleges and universities in Texas, but members of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education heard this week that the increases are not across all groups.

Susan Brown, the assistant commissioner of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for planning and accountability, told lawmakers on Tuesday that enrollment at Texas colleges is up by about 21,000 students right now, but enrollment among white students had declined for the third straight year.

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Same-Sex Marriage
7:25 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Plaintiffs Renew Their Challenge of Texas' Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Texas' same-sex marriage ban filed a brief in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 9, 2014.
photo courtesy Bobak Ha'Eri

Two couples challenging Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage are telling a federal appeals court that the ban, in their words, “defies logic."

In February, a federal judge in San Antonio struck down the voter-approved ban, but the state has appealed.

San Antonio attorney Neel Lane with Akin Gump represents the plaintiffs challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In written arguments to the appeals court filed yesterday [read PDF version of brief], he reiterates the claim that the ban is unconstitutional.

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2014 Elections
7:04 am
Tue September 9, 2014

As Abbott Questions Legality of Davis' Book Tour, Experts Find Little Precedent

Whether Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis can promote her memoir out Sept. 9, 2014 and still abide by Texas campaign finance laws is being questioned by the campaign of her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott.
Credit Blue Rider Press

State Sen. Wendy Davis’ memoir comes out today, though the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s book has already caused some controversy. In it, she shares the stories of two abortions she had for medical reasons.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign, however, is focusing on another issue – whether she can promote her book and still abide by Texas campaign finance laws. Abbott’s campaign asked the state’s campaign finance regulator to weigh in Monday.

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Tejano Trails
5:09 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Trails in a Changing East Austin Preserve Decades of Tejano History

Johnny Degollado, Tejano music legend, plays his accordion at the outdoor venue named in his honor – the Johnny Degollado Pavillion at Fiesta Gardens.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Many Latinos in Texas can trace their history back to the 1690s. They're descendants of Spanish, Mexican and indigenous people who were here when the land was subject to the Spanish crown, then later a part of the sovereign state of Mexico, the Republic of Texas and, finally, the United States.

They don’t consider themselves either Mexican or Anglo-Texan. They’re Tejanos, and they always have been.  Now, a six-mile path through Austin aims to preserve some of that history.

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HB2
5:23 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Abortion Provider To Reopen Clinic in Texas, Expands to New Mexico

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, stands outside the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A federal appeals court will hear arguments next week over Texas’ new abortion law, after a federal judge in Austin struck down parts of that law last week.

Since that ruling, one abortion provider announced plans to reopen at least one clinic that closed due to the new requirements, and it says it will add a new clinic in New Mexico.

The company is also launching an initiative intended to remove what it calls the stigma of abortion.

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Politics
9:25 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Differ Most on Education, Wendy Davis Says

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, talks about education in Austin on Aug. 27, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat running for Texas governor, talked education in Austin today. She offered few specifics on what she would do, but instead tried to highlight differences between her and her opponent.

Sen. Davis says she and Attorney General Greg Abbott couldn’t be any more different on how they view education in Texas.

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Perry Indictment
12:20 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Perry Lawyers Will File Motion to Dismiss Indictments

Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press and supporters outside the Travis County Criminal Justice Complex on August 19, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

A Travis County judge is giving Governor Rick Perry’s criminal defense attorneys until next Friday to file a motion to dismiss the two felony charges against him.

Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin on felony charges for abuse of his office. He allegedly threatened to veto funds for Travis County's Public Integrity Unit, an anti-corruption unit, unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, didn’t resign in the wake of drunk driving arrest in 2013.

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Aging
7:39 am
Fri August 22, 2014

As Austin's South Asian Community Swells, Seniors Seek More Interaction

The growing community of South Asian seniors in Austin are pushing for more opportunities to cook and eat together as their numbers swell.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

South Asian Indians make up the largest portion of Asian Americans in Austin, and within that group, seniors need meals and social interaction as much as anyone else. Many are isolated at home, however, and say free meal delivery programs don’t follow dietary restrictions.

As a result, a growing group of seniors of South Asian descent want a community kitchen to help meet their needs.

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Perry Indictment
9:09 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Rick Perry's Attorneys Dismiss Claim Veto Had Link to Cancer Agency Probe

Gov. Rick Perry arrives at the Travis County criminal justice center to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken on Aug. 19, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's legal team is fighting back against allegations from his political opponents, who have suggested the reason Perry vetoed funding for a legal unit that investigates public corruption was because it was investigating him.

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Mental Health
4:26 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

More People Getting Access to Mental Health Care After Boost in State Spending

A panel of Texas senators received an update Aug. 15, 2014 on what's being accomplished in mental health services after a boost in state spending approved by the 83rd Legislature in 2013.
Liang Shi for KUT

Texas is spending more money on mental health now than it has in more than a decade, and today, state lawmakers got to hear about what that money is accomplishing.

Some of the numbers on mental health services in Texas have lawmakers patting themselves on the back.

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Affordable Care Act
10:46 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Although Texas Leaders Aren't Expanding Medicaid, Enrollment Numbers Slated to Jump

On Aug. 14, 2014, ahead of the next legislative session, state senators talked about one of the most politically divisive federal programs, Medicaid.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Ahead of the next legislative session, state senators are talking about one of the most politically divisive federal programs – Medicaid. Or more specifically, how to avoid expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas and still get more people insured.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Texas has at least two options for insuring more people. One is expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas. The state’s Republican leadership doesn’t support that option.

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HB2
5:30 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

After Closing Arguments in Case Against Texas' Abortion Law, Parties Await Ruling

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel heard closing arguments in a case against the newest Texas abortion law on Aug. 13, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Abortion clinics in Texas have until Sept. 1 to meet the standards of hospital-style surgical centers. Providers say that will force all but a handful of clinics in Texas to close down. Today, a federal judge in Austin heard closing arguments for and against certain provisions in the state's newest abortion law.

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Immigration
9:59 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Texas Accounts For 16 Percent of Children Seeking Asylum Under Controversial Law

Volunteers at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have recently crossed into the U.S.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Two years ago, the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

It provides temporary legal status to young people brought to the U.S. illegally, but two years in, some estimates say only about half of people eligible for the program have applied.

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Aging
9:05 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Older Job Seekers in Texas Struggle to Find Jobs, But Find Strength in Numbers

Nancy Ruiz gets her photo taken for her LinkedIn profile at a meeting of the Launch Pad job club in Austin on Aug. 6, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Baby boomers have dominated the work force for decades, but now they’re fighting to stay in it as they live longer and can’t afford to live off of their savings in retirement.

Older job seekers have a hard time finding jobs – even in Austin.  Experts, however, say the growing aging population is one reason for hope.

Take Bill Hodges – he waited until the age of 57 to move to Austin, with no job prospects and dreams of a new life.

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HB2
5:12 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Texas Abortion Law Trial Almost Over, But Both Sides Ready For Step Two

A federal trial against Texas’ newest abortion law, HB2, wraps up on Aug. 7, 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Update (5:07 p.m.): U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has scheduled closing arguments in a federal trial against the state's newest abortion law for next Wednesday, Aug. 13, in the morning, after witness testimony concluded today.

The plaintiffs hope Judge Yeakel will strike down a provision that requires abortions only take place at ambulatory surgical centers. And that the provision requiring doctors to receive admitting privileges at  hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform the procedure will be struck down for physicians in El Paso and McAllen.

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Criminal Justice
8:23 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Why Spending on Peer Support Groups in Texas Jails Could Reduce Recidivism Rates

A new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities suggests if Texas spends more money on peer support groups in county jails, the recidivism rate would drop.
Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

The start of the next Texas legislative session is getting close enough that advocacy groups are urging support for their areas of interest. Today, a local organization released a report [click here for the PDF]  that suggests if the state spends more money on peer support groups in county jails, the recidivism rate would drop.

In recent years, law enforcement in Texas has been vocal about county jails serving as de facto mental health providers for inmates.

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Border & Immigration
10:30 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Texas Lawmakers Keep Questions on Border Security Operations Front & Center

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, chair of the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, listens to testimony on Aug. 5, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gov. Rick Perry's border security surge was under the microscope at the Texas Capitol Tuesday. In two separate meetings, lawmakers tried to get a handle on how much money was being spent, and what the money was being spent on.

Gov. Perry’s office has identified a source for $38 million dollars in state funding that are going towards a deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard troops and an increase in Department of Public Safety officers in South Texas.

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Abortion and Women's Health
7:54 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Federal Trial Over Texas Abortion Regulations Continues in Austin

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, stands outside the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

A trial over new abortion restrictions in Texas continues in Austin today. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel heard the first day of arguments for and against two provisions: One, that abortion clinics must become surgical centers by Sept. 1 and two, that abortion physicians in McAllen and El Paso must receive admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform the procedure.

When the legal challenge to the law, known as House Bill 2, began, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jan Soifer, argued the provisions will drastically reduce the number of abortion providers in Texas. 
Fewer than 10 facilities that meet the new requirements will be open, and all of them in the state’s major cities.

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HB2
7:47 am
Mon August 4, 2014

Abortion Rights Advocates Back in Court to Challenge House Bill 2

Abortion rights advocates are back in court on Aug.4, 2014 to argue against two provisions of the state’s new abortion law.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Abortion rights advocates are going back to court today to argue against two provisions of the state’s new abortion law. This isn’t the first time U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has heard arguments against the newest abortion law in Texas, HB2. He struck down two provisions last year, but an appeals court overturned his decision in March.

This time, the law’s opponents are going after a provision that goes into effect in less than a month.

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Abortion and Women's Health
4:32 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Another Texas Abortion Clinic Closes, This Time in Austin

Planned Parenthood clinical assistant Nicki Bailey discusses the new abortion laws with a patient in Austin.
Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

A women’s health care provider, whose Austin location offered abortions, is closing its doors today. 

The clinic is run by Whole Woman's Health, whose president and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller, blames the closure on the state’s new abortion law. The law requires clinics to upgrade to surgical centers by Sept. 1.

"It’s a decision that the state has made," Hagstrom Miller says. "It’s been a real challenge to try and fight back and do everything that we can, but in the end there’s no way that we can afford to build an ambulatory surgical center or do that kind of remodeling."

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