When not using his committee assignments to empower Democrats, House Speaker Joe Straus uses his appointments to empower cronyism by his loyalists.

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Jim Keffer, Straus’ Natural Resources chairman, has used his time in office to advance his family’s financial interests. Keffer’s family company manufactures pipe fittings and other iron products used in municipal water pipelines.

In 2013 and 2015, Keffer used his chairmanship and partnered with Democrats to advance bills forcing local governments to buy his company’s pipe fittings. The bills would have increased the cost of an average water project in Texas by as much as 15 percent—taking millions from taxpayers to line Keffer’s pockets.

Similarly, Jimmie Don Aycock—who Straus appointed Public Education chairman—used his position last session to enrich his daughter. She worked as a lobbyist for left-wing education groups who oppose expanding educational opportunities and support higher property taxes.

Public outcry eventually caused Aycock’s daughter to resign her lobby post. Nonetheless, Aycock still refused to even give educational choice a hearing in his committee—despite the bill being a priority of Gov. Abbott and passing the Senate with bipartisan support. Aycock did, however, pass out a bill raising the cap on property taxes.

Straus Facts is a project of Empower Texans, shining a light on the record of House Speaker Joe Straus.

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