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New member profile: Rep. Ben Harrison

When former Limestone County Commissioner Ben Harrison learned long-time Rep. Lynn Greer wasn’t running for reelection in 2022, Harrison wondered about Greer’s potential replacements.

“I wanted to be represented by a conservative person,” Harrison. “I decided that if I didn’t run, I might not be represented by someone who would promote conservative values.”

In a recent interview with Alabama Daily News, Harrison, now representing House District 2 in western Limestone County and eastern Lauderdale County, said he wants more school choice for families, an elimination, or at least reduction, of the state’s grocery tax and closed primaries. In a three-candidate GOP primary, Harrison says he campaigned on a message of liberty and freedom.

“Our country was founded upon that, and we are increasingly being encroached upon for those liberties and freedoms, and we (have to do) something and kind of push back on these things,” Harrison said.

Harrison won the primary runoff against Jason Black with 55.6% of the vote. He had no opposition in November.

Harrison said the growth of government is one of the biggest issues he sees for citizens in his district. He plans to bring legislation that he says would protect peoples’ rights during another pandemic. Rights and livelihoods were damaged by government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, he told Alabama Daily News.

“The government should never come between a willing buyer and a willing seller,” he said. “It does all the time, but it shouldn’t. It’s incumbent upon the business owner to determine how he’s going to protect his employees and what requirements he’s going to put on the customers coming through his store.”

“It’s the responsibility of the customer to decide whether that business owner operates in a way that he considers to be safe,” he added.

His bill would change the state’s emergency response rules.

“It would address emergency powers, it would address the Alabama Department of Public Health,” Harrison said.

He said it would be similar to legislation sponsored in 2020. 

Harrison was a Limestone County Commissioner for two terms that ended in 2020. In 2019, the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey approved a phased-in 10 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase. While many county leaders favored the increase because some of the new revenue would flow to them for local projects, Harrison was against it and said so at a public hearing at the State House.

“I didn’t say that we don’t need the money,” Harrison, a chemical engineer by profession, said. “I said, let’s do cost-reduction activities first, and then see where we are because you cannot tax enough at the current cost structure to really address the issues on infrastructure.”

“They have got to focus on cost reduction, and increase the lifespan of the roads,” he said.

Harrison’s committee assignments include County and Municipal Governments, Fiscal Responsibility and Constitution, and Campaigns and Elections.

On the latter, Harrison wants to see a bill to keep Democrats and others from voting in GOP primaries. 

“We’ll be addressing the closed primaries in this session — we need to,” he said.

Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, said Harrison’s experience on the county commission, especially regarding infrastructure needs, will be valuable in Montgomery.

“He’s a very intelligent man and does his research,” Crawford said. “When you’re prepared and know more about a subject than others, you can usually get things through the Legislature.” 

Meanwhile, Crawford will be glad to have another Limestone County resident in the House. The county’s delegation totals nine House and Senate members, but Crawford, until this year, was the lone lawmaker residing in the county that’s grown by about 30% in the last decade.

“It’s always good to double our voice,” Crawford told Alabama Daily News.

Harrison says he’s for free-market approaches and solutions, including in education. Harrison, whose children were homeschooled, plans to support a bill to allow state funding to follow students to private and home-school settings.

“You need competition,” Harrison said. “Competition is usually good and it gives parents another choice. The whole idea is not to hurt public education. I’ve talked to a lot of teachers, (and) it is not the teachers that are the problem in public education.”

The problem, Harrison argued, was “the bureaucracy.”

“It is the reliance of federal money that comes with strings attached that increase the costs.” 

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