News Roundup: How MJ Hegar’s Childcare Funding Victory Builds On A Previous FEC Ruling

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJuly 30, 2019 7:18 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas Democrat MJ Hegar can use campaign funds to cover childcare costs while running for U.S. Senate. 

Hegar won approval for this request from the Federal Election Commission. The Air Force veteran is one of several Democrats vying to challenge Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn in 2020. 

This FEC ruling builds on one involving former New York congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley. Grechen Shirley explains she sought to use campaign funds to cover childcare costs she had to start paying in order to run for office. 

“I had two small children, my children were 1 and 3 when I launched my campaign,” Grechen Shirley says. “And my mother is a public school teacher, she’d work til 3:30 and she’d come home and watch them then, but I had then with me during the first few months of the campaign everyday until 3:30 and it wasn’t sustainable.”

Grechen Shirley says the FEC’s decision on Hegar’s request broadens when campaign funds can be used for childcare expenses.  

“MJ took it one step further, she was already paying for childcare, so this request that they granted for her, said regardless of the fact that you were already campaigning for this childcare, if it’s during the hours that you’re campaigning you can continue to use your campaign funds for childcare,” Grechen Shirley says.

Grechen Shirley now runs a group called Vote Mama that works to elect Democratic moms running for office. MJ Hegar is actually a member of the group’s advisory committee. She explains they want candidates around the country to have access to this type of support. 

“We are working, Vote Mama, is actually working to get all 50 states to approve this for state and local candidates. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how quickly it has expanded this year.” Grechen Shirley says.

Candidates running for state office in Texas are already allowed to use campaign contributions to cover childcare costs.

A historic Catholic church in Central Texas went up in flames Monday. 

Texas Public Radio reports Church of the Visitation in Westphalia was built in 1895 and was said to be the largest all-wood church in the state.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez is with the Diocese of Austin, which includes the small community of Westphalia. He tells KCEN TV the loss of the church is a tragedy, but the community’s faith remains strong.

“This is truly one of our treasured churches because of its history, because of the tradition here, because of the love of the people, the faith of the people. So that love and faith is not diminished,” Vásquez says.

There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

The number of measles cases in Texas is now up to 21 this year, after six cases were recently confirmed in El Paso County. There were just nine cases in 2018 and only one the year before that. 

Chris Van Deusen, the director of media relations for the Texas Department of State Health Services, explains while 21 cases is not especially concerning in a state as large as Texas, some populations are more vulnerable than others.  

“There are communities or individuals who are not immunized and that of course puts them at a greater risk of contracting something, like measles, that can be a serious illness,” Van Deusen says.

Twelve Texas counties have had at least one measles case in 2019.