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story.lead_photo.caption Donald Ragland of Marshall (left), and Speaker of the Arkansas House Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia chuckle as Gillam struggles with a House lapel pin. Ragland was sworn in as representative for House District 83 during a ceremony in the state Capitol rotunda Tuesday morning in Little Rock. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

Republican Donald Ragland of Marshall, who won a February special election to fill the vacant District 83 seat in north-central Arkansas, was sworn in to the Arkansas House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The ceremony -- performed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp on the House's 1953 Bible -- again made the lower chamber full with 100 members. While there are no plans for lawmakers to be called into session until next year, there are monthly committee meetings throughout the year.

Ragland also is running for a full two-year term for the seat. He is in a June 19 runoff with former Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape and, because there is no other general election candidate, the winner will take office in January.

A former sheriff, Ragland fills the position vacated by Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, who resigned at the end of last year to take a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development office in Arkansas.

The makeup of the House is now 76 Republicans, 23 Democrats and one independent.

Under House rules, Ragland will take over Branscum's committee assignments and will serve on the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee and the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee.

"I'm willing to work, I'm ready to start," Ragland said in brief remarks after his swearing-in. "I appreciate all the people who have come for me."

In the primary election held in February, Ragland defeated Republican challenger Timmy Reid with about 54 percent of the vote. He was unopposed in the special general election.

Ragland was assigned seat No. 77 by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, who quipped that "eventually we'll have seats and that will mean something to you."

The House chamber is undergoing renovation that has necessitated the removal of lawmakers' desks and chairs.

Ragland's brother, former state Rep. Roy Ragland, R-Marshall, serves as the House chief of staff.

Metro on 06/06/2018

Print Headline: Lawmaker takes oath, fills out chamber

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