An Arkansas House of Representatives spokesperson says Rep. Justin Harris has “asked to step down” as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs, as well as the Joint Performance Review Committee.
UPDATE: Although he’s relinquishing his vice-chair position, Harris will remain on Aging, Children and Youth as a voting member. He’ll also remain a member of Joint Budget, a powerful committee that approves all appropriations for state agencies.
The Aging, Children and Youth committee often deals with matters pertaining to the Department of Human Services (DHS), which has developed a tangled personal relationship with Harris.
The Arkansas Times investigation into the Harris “rehoming” has raised questions about whether Rep. Harris improperly used his position to influence DHS into approving his adoption, which later failed. On Sunday, Spencer Willems at the Democrat-Gazette took a close look at email exchanges between Harris and Cecile Blucker, the head of the DHS division over adoption and foster care, that suggest the representative maintained regular contact with Blucker and used his partial control over the division’s budget to exert pressure at times.
Harris, however, has placed the blame for the failed adoption and subsequent “rehoming” squarely on DHS. He said the agency has intimidated him and his family.
Harris did not hold a chairmanship on Joint Performance Review, which conducts periodic investigations and reviews of state agencies and services.
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