Newly-elected State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity) took an interest in politics from a young age.
Yarbrough, who represents House District 7, told 1819 News in a recent interview that his father instilled in him a love for his country and learning in general through books.
"My dad was always a big reader," Yarbrough said. "Growing up, there was always a big respect and a love for our heritage as Americans and our freedoms and our liberties."
Local Republican candidates were happy to channel that enthusiasm toward volunteer campaign work.
"Also, growing up as a homeschooled person, you were kind of like fresh meat for Republican candidates for door knocking and putting out signs and stuff," Yarbrough said. "So we did a good bit of that as well. I was very politically aware and involved, and I suppose we were unusually read in terms of governing documents and historical realities around our times and our history as a country so all of that certainly played a role in terms of having a sense of patriotism."
Yarbrough graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and is a self-employed electrical engineer. He's married with four children, according to his campaign site.
In further proof that state legislative seats attract gluttons for punishment, he lists CrossFit as one of his hobbies.
Yarbrough said he decided to run for the District 7 seat due to COVID-19 and the government's reaction to the pandemic.
"The nuts and bolts of why we decided to run really got formed in the last four years because of COVID," Yarbrough said. "We felt like that we were seeing a very disturbing trend of our liberties and freedoms being pawned away, sacrificed away, traded away … and it was very disturbing to us. It was very disconcerting. We felt like, in particular, that in Alabama, we didn't understand so much why it felt like we had such a red state that would have purple legislation. There needed to be more of an obvious plain connection between our conservative principles that all the nominees run on and the type of legislation that is passed."
That meant taking on the uphill battle of challenging and defeating incumbent State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope). Yarbrough then staved off Democrat and Libertarian challengers in the general election, winning over 75% of the vote.
"The entire response and attitude and demeanor around COVID was basically whatever big government says is what we should do," Yarbrough said. "We felt like we could see what was going on really clearly and that maybe God was calling us to step in and throw our hat in the ring to be a representative who would truly represent not only the needs of the people but would represent our conservative values and not just give them lip service when it's time to be elected."
House District 7 encompasses all of Lawrence County and parts of Morgan and Colbert Counties.
Yarbrough told 1819 News that he wanted to focus on pro-life, school choice and tax reduction issues as a new legislator.
"The pro-life battle is only just beginning because the temptation is when you get a victory like overturning Roe v. Wade that we let our guard down and we think that abortion is no longer happening in Alabama," Yarbrough said. "There's some things we can shore up and secure to make sure that we protect the lives of our children."
Yarbrough stated that "schools need to be willing to submit to the same free market principle of earning the trust, respect, and dollars of the parents by committing themselves to working hard and producing a high-quality product."
"Whatever happens, the money needs to be able to follow the child," Yarbrough added. "The nuts and bolts of that I'm still in research in terms of reading other laws that have passed in Florida, Arizona [and] West Virginia to see the best ways to go about making that a reality. The essence of school choice is that parents are the ones who have the final say over where their kids go to school … what they believe is the best spiritual, intellectual and physical place for their children to thrive."
Yarbrough also mentioned Alabama's sales tax on food and the gas tax as two taxes that could be cut or reformed. Alabama is one of a few states that taxes groceries at the same sales tax rate that's paid on other goods and services. According to the Tax Foundation, Alabama has the fifth-highest combined state and local average sales tax rate.
"In terms of getting relief to individuals … obviously the grocery tax needs to go," Yarbrough said. "I'd love to see the index on the gas [tax] go."
Under the Rebuild Alabama Act, the gas and diesel tax rate will be indexed to the percentage change in the yearly average of the National Highway Construction Cost Index beginning on Oct. 1, 2023, and every other year after on July 1.
Under the law, an increase or decrease in the tax rate would be rounded to the nearest whole cent and capped at a one-cent change, either way, depending on whether the previous calendar year's index average was higher or lower than the 2020 base year's average.
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