Justin Harris

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Justin Todd Harris
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
from the 87th district
In office
2011–2013
Preceded by Mark Martin
Succeeded by Jonathan Barnett
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
from the 81st district
In office
2013–2017
Preceded by Karen Hopper (transferred to District 100)
Personal details
Born 1975
Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Marsha Gail Frederick Harris (married 2000)
Children Three sons (current), Three daughters (former)
Residence West Fork
Washington County
Arkansas
Alma mater

Siloam Springs High School

University of Arkansas
Occupation Preschool owner and operator

Justin Todd Harris (born 1975) is the owner and operator of a preschool in West Fork in Washington County in northwestern Arkansas and a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Since 2013, he has represented District 81, which includes parts of Washington and Crawford counties. From 2011 to 2013, Harris represented District 87, a seat then switched to the since term-limited Republican Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs in Benton County.[1]

Background[edit]

A native of Muskogee in eastern Oklahoma, Harris was reared in Siloam Springs, where he graduated from Siloam Springs High School. He holds degrees in Human and Child Development and Human Environmental Science from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He is a member of the Arkansas and the Southern Early Childhood Education associations. Since 2003, he has owned Growing God's Kingdom Preschool in West Fork. From 2000 to 2003, he was director of the Living Faith Preschool. For some two years in the late 1990s, he was a merchandising assistant for JCPenney.[2]

Since 2009, Harris has been a member of both the Washington County Republican Party and the Tea Party movement.[citation needed] He considers Ronald W. Reagan his favorite U.S. President.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 2010, Harris ran in District 87 for the seat vacated by the term-limited Mark Martin, who was instead elected as the first Republican Secretary of State of Arkansas since Reconstruction. Harris defeated the Democrat Earl John Hunton (born 1966) of Prairie Grove in Washington County, 4,439 (56.8 percent) to 3,372 (43.2 percent).[3]

In 2012, Harris was switched to District 81 for his second legislative term. The incumbent Republican, Representative Karen Hopper, was moved to District 100. In the Republican primary, Harris defeated Lisa Marie France Norris (born 1980) of Alma in Crawford County, 1,578 (63.6 percent) to 904 (36.4 percent). In the general election, Harris prevailed over the Democrat Wolf Grulkey, also of Alma, a supporter of Governor Mike Beebe. The tabulation was 6,891 votes (67.3 percent) for Harris to 3,355 (32.7 percent) for Grulkey.[4]

Representative Harris served on these committees: (1) Legislative Joint Auditing, (2) Performance Review, and (3) Public Health, Welfare and Labor.[2] Harris is Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, the committee which oversees the Department of Human Services. Through the Department of Human Services, Harris's pre-school, Growing God's Kingdom, has received more than $4.1 million in public funds since 2010. It was also this agency which Harris required to approve his controversial adoptions.[5]

In 2013, Representative Harris co-sponsored the amending of state income tax rates and supported the proposed spending cap on the state budget, but the latter measure failed by a two-vote margin in the House. He joined the majority to override the vetoes of Democratic Governor Mike Beebe to enact legislation to require photo identification for casting a ballot in Arkansas and to ban abortion after twenty weeks of gestation, despite Beebe's concerns that the bill was unconstitutional. He was a co-sponsor of both of those measures. Harris also supported related pro-life legislation to outlaw abortion whenever fetal heartbeat is detected, to forbid the inclusion of abortion in the state insurance exchange, and to make the death of an unborn child a felony in certain cases.[6] In January 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision to strike down a twenty-week abortion ban in Arizona, leaving the legality of the Arkansas law in doubt.[7]

On Second Amendment issues, Harris co-sponsored allowing officials of universities and religious institutions to engage in the concealed carry of firearms. He voted to reduce the application fee for obtaining a concealed carry permit, but the measure was defeated in the House. Harris co-sponsored the measure which prohibits the governor from regulating firearms during an emergency. He voted to prohibit the closing of schools based on a two-year pupil enrollment analysis and to establish a tiered system of lottery scholarships. Harris voted against legislation to make the office of prosecuting attorney in Arkansas nonpartisan, which nevertheless passed sixty-three to twenty-four. He voted to establish a tiered system of lottery scholarships. Harris co-sponsored the bill, signed by Governor Beebe, to permit the sale of up to five hundred gallons per month of unpasteurized whole milk directly from the farm to consumers.[6]

In 2011, Harris voted to set state standards for biblical instruction in public schools but opposed the authorization of dress codes. He voted against the prohibition of cell phone usage in school zones. He voted to require that state driver's license tests be administered only in the English language. He voted for the Capital Gains Reduction Act and for the reduction of taxes on manufacturers' utilities. He voted against the congressional redistricting act.[6]

Harris endorsed Asa Hutchinson in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary against Curtis Coleman. Hutchinson, a former U.S. Representative from Arkansas' 3rd congressional district, was the party's 2006 standard-bearer against Mike Beebe. He rebounded to win the general election in 2014 against the Democrat Mike Ross.

Personal life[edit]

Harris and his wife, the former Marsha Gail Frederick (born 1976), have three sons,[8] named Ethan, Isaiah, and Caelan. He and his wife adopted three daughters. One, the oldest, was in their home just a few months; the other two lived with the Harrises for about a year before they were "rehomed" to another family, where one daughter was raped. The Harrises believed that the children could communicate telepathically with "... other foster families, the girls' biological mother, a Department of Human Services employee and a former babysitter." Harris and his wife believed that the middle child was possessed by a demon, so were kept under lock and key. The Arkansas Times reported:[9]

"Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises, said Mary was kept isolated from Annie and from the rest of the family. She was often confined for hours to her room, where she was monitored by a video camera. The reason: The Harrises believed the girls were possessed by demons and could communicate telepathically, Goldsborough said. Harris and his wife once hired specialists to perform an "exorcism" on the two sisters while she waited outside the house with the boys, she said."

They had an exorcism performed, but then sent the girls to live with Eric Francis, a former employee, while the Harris family continued to receive adoption subsidies. Francis raped one of the girls, and was sentenced to forty years in prison.[9] Harris has stated that during the adoption process his wife was dying of pancreatic cancer.[10]

Harris did not seek reelection in 2016.

Harris and his family attend and are members of Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas (Church at Pinnacle Hills), whose pastor is Ronnie Floyd, the 2014 president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Cross Church is a Southern Baptist "mega-church".[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Justin Harris, R-82". arkansashouse.org. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Justin Harris' Biography". votesmart.org. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ "District 87". ballotpedia.org. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ "District 81". ballotpedia.org. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Legislator Who Rehomed Children has Received $4M in Public Funds since 2010". ArkansasMatters.com. March 13, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "Justin Harris' Voting Records". votesmart.org. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court refuses to allow Arizona's 20-week abortion ban, which Arkansas law parallels". Arkansas Times. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  8. ^ "A child left unprotected". Arkansas Times. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Casting out demons: why Justin Harris got rid of kids he applied pressure to adopt". Arkansas Times. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Lawmaker defends giving away adopted girls". USA Today. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
Preceded by
Mark Martin
Arkansas State Representative from District 87 (now Benton and Washington counties)

Justin Todd Harris
2011–2013

Succeeded by
Jonathan Barnett
Preceded by
Karen Hopper (moved to District 100)
Arkansas State Representative from District 81 (Washington and Crawford counties)

Justin Todd Harris
2013–

Succeeded by
Incumbent