State Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, sees himself as more of a “behind the scenes” kind of legislator, preferring to work around the edges of a bill than in the heart of it.
“I’m more of a go-in, close-the-door, this-bill-needs-some-work kind of guy,” he told The Times in an interview this week at the Hall County Library System’s Spout Springs library in South Hall. “That’s opposed to getting up in front of the chamber and railing against it while it’s in its final days of passage.”
A hawk of “bad bills,” the North Gwinnett County resident is hoping to continue his work in the General Assembly, seeking a fifth term to State House District 103, which includes portions of North Gwinnett and South Hall. He faces Democratic challenger Clifton Marshall in the Nov. 3 general election.
“I look forward to working … to win in November so that we can continue to limit government, expand freedom and empower our families here in Georgia,” he said.
“This area is awesome — small businesses and families, and we identify with those folks,” Barr said of his district. “And I’m from a faith background — very involved in my church — and I want to see this community thrive in a way that I enjoyed growing up.”
The 39-year-old Gwinnett native began his legislative run in 2013, after an election in 2012. He said he initially was spurred to seek office by considering the future of his children, ages 1, 6, 8 and 10. Two of his four children had been born at that time.
Occupation: construction company owner
Political experience: took office in 2013
Residence: North Gwinnett County
“My No. 1 motivator to run for office is when we got pregnant, we really started looking at the world in terms of our children 25 years down the road,” Barr said. “We started praying about how do we get involved. I honestly didn’t think it was a run for office. … But redistricting had happened, and the district (seat) became open. There was no incumbent.
“A friend of mine said you should look at this. I kind of shrugged it off as other people do that — I thought I wasn’t qualified. We started thinking about it and praying about it.”
When first elected, and still the case today, “I say I go to the Capitol to fight for liberty,” Barr said. “It has a very deep meaning for me. I truly believe that my generation and that of my children are seeing our freedoms slip away faster than other generation before us.” His eldest child is daughter Liberty.
One issue that challenged Barr’s ideals right off the bat was a state law that said in a state of emergency, citizens aren’t allowed to carry weapons outside their home.
“There was a few of us who thought that’s not right. It took a couple of years to get that changed,” said Barr, who co-sponsored a bill on the issue. “Now, looking back, that’s kind of a big deal for a lot of folks.”
He also has sponsored a bill requiring testing for food stamp recipients if their caseworker had suspicions of drug use. And he co-sponsored legislation concerning the fair tax — converting Georgia’s tax code from a state income tax to a statewide consumption tax system — with Rep. Emory Dunahoo.
Barr: He said he would like to continue working on health care reforms, working in partnership with state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, who has been the Hall delegation’s lead on reforms. That includes looking at prescription costs and generally “looking out for transparency in our health system. It touches everybody.”
Barr: “If the economy continues on an upward trend, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to do any more than (10% cuts) and maybe we’ll be able to add back some. The budget is going to be top priority next year — to get us going back again and getting folks back to normal and feeling comfortable with where we’re at.”
COVID-19 pandemic response
Barr: A No. 1 priority is making sure there are checks and balances concerning the governor’s use of executive orders, such as the state of emergency during the pandemic. “No matter who’s in the governor’s chair, they cannot continue to sign an executive order to water down the (state) constitution. I think we’re doing a good job as a state, but the legislature has given the power of our COVID-19 response to the governor.”
Law enforcement issues, reforms
Barr: “One of the things a lot of agencies are going to are body cameras, and that’s a huge accountability. It’s a safety for officers. I’ll be first to defend (police), but I’ll also be the first to (address) an issue that needs to be fixed. I don’t see a systemic problem that needs to be fixed in our area.”
Barr also has been involved in supporting the “heartbeat bill,” which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they’re expecting. In July, a federal judge permanently blocked the 2019 law, finding that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
One of his passions these days is seeking a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution by getting 34 states supporting the move. Georgia has already signed on, but Barr hasn’t taken his foot off the gas.
“Educating other states about that is important to me,” Barr said. “I feel the biggest threat to my children’s future is a runaway federal budget.”
He said he supports law enforcement, “which used to be a no-brainer, but now that’s more controversial. Law and order is absolutely important. First Amendment free speech is, as well. I don’t correlate that with not being able to protest.”
Still, “I don’t see a systemic problem that needs to be fixed in our area” with law enforcement, Barr said.
Looking to a possible fifth term, he said he believes the budget and the state’s economy are “going to be top priority” as Georgia still has to deal with COVID-19 fallout, including businesses struggling to stay open.
“Being a small business guy, being shut down for seven weeks, I get (economic concerns) in a very real way,” said Barr, who runs a construction company doing mainly remodels and additions, as well as custom homes.
He’s optimistic, though, about the state’s economic future, based largely on low unemployment numbers.
“If the economy continues on an upward trend, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to do any more than (10% austerity cuts) and maybe we’ll be able to add back some,” Barr said.