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Top House Lawmaker's Daughter to Step Down as Lobbyist

House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock announced Friday that his daughter would be stepping down from her role as a lobbyist for education issues for the upcoming legislative session.

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock R-Killeen during a public education committee hearing on February 19th, 2013

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Following attacks from conservative activists over a possible conflict of interest, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock announced Friday that his daughter would step down from her role as an education lobbyist for the upcoming legislative session.

The Killeen Republican said in a statement that his daughter, Michelle Smith, had chosen to withdraw her lobby registration after questions over her position continued despite his decision to recuse himself from any issues involving her clients.

"Her employment predates my service as House Public Education Chair. We have both filed the required disclosure forms, and I announced I would recuse myself on matters related to her clients. Despite these measures, the comments have persisted," Aycock said.

Aycock has become a target of conservative groups who want lawmakers to create a publicly funded scholarship program to that would help parents send their children to private schools. Such legislation has failed in the past because of staunch opposition in the House. Smith was among the lobbyists retained by Raise Your Hand Texas, a group that opposes private school vouchers, during the 2013 legislative session. HillCo Partners, the firm where Smith works, currently represents Raise Your Hand.

"I find it ironic that anti-education forces felt it necessary to critique a former teacher with a Ph.D. in education improvement from Texas State University in order to apply pressure to me," Aycock said. "It is especially ironic since most of the comments seem to emanate from a small group centered largely around Michael Quinn Sullivan, whose own efforts to avoid lobbyist registration have become legendary."

Sullivan, the president of Empower Texans, is embroiled in a legal battle with the Texas Ethics Commission over whether his activities leading the conservative advocacy group require him to register as a lobbyist. Following a two-year investigation, the commission ordered Sullivan to pay a maximum possible fine of $10,000 after ruling in July he should have registered as a lobbyist during his work promoting conservative measures before lawmakers in 2010 and 2011. Sullivan, who says the case against him amounts to a "witch hunt" launched by Speaker of the House Joe Straus and his allies, has since appealed the commission's finding in state district court.

Empower Texans, with the affiliated Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, has long campaigned to unseat Straus, taking aim at his chairmen in primary elections along the way.

Disclosure: Raise Your Hand Texas and HillCo Partners are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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