Actions came from both the governor’s office and a state House committee Tuesday to address controversy over Representative Justin Harris “rehoming” two of his adopted daughters without state oversight to a non-relative.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill making the practice a felony. Afterward, Harris briefly commented that he supported the measure since it adds some protections for parents against abandonment charges.
“We have to deal with both issues and I think as long as both issues are being dealt with it’s a positive step,” said Harris. "I read more on it today, on the passing of it and you know, I appreciate the sentiments of it."
Harris previously said DHS inappropriately threatened him with abandonment charges for trying to rescind the adoption of the two girls he later rehomed to a family friend and former employee who was later convicted of sexually abusing one of the girls.
Speaking to reporters fellow Republican, Governor Asa Hutchinson, declined to comment on whether Harris should resign, but announced he is launching an examination of the state’s youth services.
“I have directed and ordered and independent review of our child welfare program within the Department of Human Services,” said Hutchinson. “It’s independent because it will be directed out of the governor’s office. It is designed not for any one particular case but for the broad array of programs that impact our children.”
Hutchinson has previously said he supports the legislation passed Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill by Republican Representative David Meeks of Conway also requires court-approval if the care of a child’s is transferred to a relative. It now heads to the House floor.