Cooper sworn in as District 21 senator

LITTLE ROCK — John Cooper was sworn in as state senator of the District 21 Tuesday and said he is looking forward to the upcoming fiscal session.

“I don’t feel overwhelmed,” the Jonesboro Republican told a reporter after the swearing in ceremony on the floor of the Senate chambers. “I know it’s going to be a lot busier, but we’ve been working on getting the office set up and getting the computers I need to operate with, getting the paperwork filed.”

Cooper, who campaigned against the federal Affordable Care Act and the state’s reauthorization of the private option, said he has not changed his mind and he doubts anything will.

“You don’t know what’s out there that you haven’t seen, but no, I don’t foresee anything like that and I haven’t changed my mind,” he said.

Cooper defeated Democrat Steve Rockwell in a special election earlier this month in a race to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Democrat Paul Bookout.

Bookout, a Democrat from Jonesboro who voted for the private option, resigned from the Senate in August after being fined $8,000 by the state Ethics Commission for converting campaign contributions to personal use.

With Cooper now in office, the likelihood of the private option being reapproved has diminished. The original appropriation for the private option — the state’s program that uses federal Medicaid money to provide private insurance to low-income Arkansans — passed last year with one vote to spare in the state Senate, but two of the “yes” votes have disappeared.

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, who voted for the private option last year, said recently she plans to oppose reauthorization next month.

The fiscal session begins Feb. 10.