Arkansas Legislature Needs a Spring Cleaning

Arkansas Legislature Needs a Spring Cleaning
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

For those of you who may not be aware of Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris of West Fork, and the events surrounding him this past week, let me get you up to speed.

Earlier this month, The Arkansas Times issued a report that exposed that Harris had rehomed — which is apparently legal in Arkansas — two of his adopted children to a Bella Vista home where they were later sexually abused.

Harris and his wife, Marsha, had adopted two at-risk sisters, ages 3 and 6, in 2012. Six months later, the Harrises rehomed them with Eric Francis, an employee at the Christian preschool Harris owns and operates, with his wife. According to the Harrises, the Department of Human Services neglected to inform them about the behavioral issues the children had, which they claimed had reactive attachment disorder, a condition that can lead to violent behavior. After the violent crushing of a family pet and alleged death threats, Harris rehomed the sisters in an effort to avoid an abandonment lawsuit with DHS. Harris said he sought DHS assistance at that time and was given none.

Francis was arrested in April 2014 in connection with the sexual assault of the 6-year-old. Francis plead guilty to his charges in November of last year. Harris neglected to notify parents whose children attended his preschool that Francis had been arrested. According to DHS, there is no policy that requires the preschool to alert the parents because the incident did not happen on site.

Chelsey Goldsborough, who regularly babysat for the Harrises while the girls were in their custody, said that the youngest sister was kept isolated in her room without toys under surveillance. She also said the Harrises believed the youngest was “possessed by a demon” and had an exorcism performed on her. Harris denies the claims about the demons, however.

Harris has yet to resign, but he has since stepped down from his roles on committees that oversee the Department of Human Services, the state’s adoption agency.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has since ordered a review of DHS. To address the legality of rehoming, House Bill 1676 has been proposed by Rep. David Meeks, of Conway, Ark., and will make rehoming a felony offense. Well thank God.

The question of whether or not Harris has done anything illegal is still up in question, but the facts remain. This is so messed up, and more and more details seem to be emerging about the home life at the Harrises. Goldsborough went on record saying the girls weren’t of any trouble to her and seemed normal.

Now that’s just what’s been happening recently at the capitol. While the actions of few do not represent the many, I can’t help but think to myself. What the hell, Arkansas GOP?

In addition to Harris, select members of the Arkansas General Assembly, as well as the US Senate, have been a frequent embarrassment across national headlines recently that make our state look like a bunch of ultra-conservative idiots.

Sen. Tom Cotton, being the most prominent, has furthered his shallow “I hate anything that has to do with Obama” platform with his recent stunt in his “mutinous” letter to Iran.

Arkansas State Reps. Bart Hester (Cave Springs) and Bob Ballinger (Berryville) have made it clear they don’t value the human rights of the LGBTQ population of Arkansas, and according to their lawmaking, neither should anyone else in Arkansas.

Then we’ve got State Sen. Jason Rapert! The dude thinks we should just drop a nuke on ISIS controlled areas to put it all to rest, like it’s Sid Meier’s Civilization V.

Rapert actually said this on Facebook in February: “I believe it is time to annihilate the strongholds and pursue the rest till we have them all captured or killed. A strategically placed nuclear weapon would save the lives of our soldiers and quickly turn things around.”

Could you imagine if Rapert had the power to make that call? I don’t have any experience with nuclear weapons or foreign policy, but I think I’m smart enough to know that nuking anything should only be an absolute last resort, and should never be considered a viable option. Anyone with a basic history education will know nuclear warfare only results in countless innocents killed and reckless destruction.

Not only do these actions reflect badly on our state — our home — it reflects badly on the voting body who elected these men.

Something needs to change, Arkansas.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary