LITTLE ROCK — A state legislator who "re-homed" his two adopted daughters to a man who later assaulted one of the girls will not seek re-election, according to his attorney.

LITTLE ROCK — A state legislator who "re-homed" his two adopted daughters to a man who later assaulted one of the girls will not seek re-election, according to his attorney.


Rep. Justin Harris, R-West Fork, will not seek to return to the Legislature in 2016, Little Rock lawyer Jennifer Wells said Tuesday. Harris did not immediately return a message left on his voice mail.


The Arkansas Times first reported in March that in 2013 Harris and his wife, Marsha, placed their two adopted daughters in the home of a former employee of their West Fork preschool, Growing God’s Kingdom. The former employee, Eric Cameron Frances, pleaded guilty last year to sexually assaulting one of the girls and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.


A few weeks after those details came to light, the state Legislature passed, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed, two bills addressing re-homing, or the practice of placing one’s adopted children in another home without court approval.


Act 1092 of 2015 makes the practice a felony, and Act 1648 of 2015 directs the state Department of Human Services to ensure that post-adoptive services are made available to families seeking help to avoid disruption of an adoption. The latter law also requires parents to notify DHS immediately if an adopted child leaves their care.


Harris voted for both measures, which are not retroactive.


Harris has said the girls had behavioral issues and that when he contacted DHS about their issues, he was threatened with prosecution if he returned the girls to the agency’s custody. DHS has said it cannot comment on specific cases but has said it has always been available to Harris to address his or his constituents’ concerns.


On March 16, Harris resigned from his position as vice chairman of the House Aging, Children and Youth Committee and as a member of the Joint Performance Review Committee, two panels that routinely consider issues directly affecting DHS.


First elected to the House in 2010, Harris has been re-elected twice. Under the state’s term-limits law, a legislator can serve up to 16 years.


House Minority Leader Eddie Armstrong, D-North Little Rock, who called on Harris to consider resigning in a March news conference, said Tuesday he was "not surprised" by Harris’ announcement.


"I think that it was the appropriate thing to do so that the distraction can now be removed," he said. "I’m glad that we can get back to the people’s business."


Armstrong added, "I wish Justin Harris and his family all the best in the future, and most importantly, pray for the little girl that will forever have to continue to struggle with the fact that she is the overall victim — in something that we have created policy behind. This member and his family probably need time to rebuild and readjust and see through what has taken place."


But House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said Harris had mentioned to him at the beginning of this year’s regular legislative session, before the controversy over re-homing, that he was interested in making this term his last.


"He wanted to be there for his kids. He didn’t want to miss their growing up," Gillam said.


Harris and his wife have three sons.


Asked if he believed Harris’ presence would be a distraction if he were re-elected, Gillam said, "I said at the time that things are only distractions if you let them be. We stayed focused on the tasks at hand during the session and were able to finish out the job that we were sent to do. … and I would think that we would do no less in the next session."


UPDATE: Wells said in a statement released late Tuesday night, "Representative Harris thanks his constituents for the opportunity to serve them for the past three terms. He also thanks his family, especially his wife, Marsha, for all of their sacrifices. Representative Harris looks forward to spending time with his family and completing his advanced degree after the fiscal session."