Meet the new Representatives on Arizona’s House Health Committee

Arizona State House Speaker-Elect Rusty Bowers announced House committee assignments for the 2019 session yesterday. Six of the nine members who will sit on the House Health and Human Services Committee are either new to the House completely or new to the health-related committee. Here’s what you should know about all those new faces:

  • Nancy Barto (R), Chair: Member-Elect Barto will be new-ish to the House next session; she’s coming over from the State Senate, where she’s Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and served in the House for five years before that.

    Last session, Barto sponsored several successful health care-related bills, including one controversial bill that requires doctors to ask women seeking abortions a list of specific questions. From her legislative website:

“Nancy has sponsored major health care reforms aimed at increasing affordable health insurance options, protecting patients’ fundamental privacy rights, the health of women and the unborn.”

  • John Allen (R): Rep. Allen was first elected to the House in 2012 and is currently serving as Chair of the Children and Family Affairs Committee.

    His legislative website gives little hint as to what his role on this committee will be. The only health care-related legislation we saw listed on his page is a 2015 Senate bill he sponsored that prohibited health insurance through any healthcare exchange to provide coverage for abortions. 
  • Gail Griffin (R): Another new-ish member with established roots in the state legislature. Member-Elect Griffin is currently serving as Majority Whip in the State Senate. Before being elected as Senator in 2010, Griffin was a member of the House.

    Griffin’s not a member of the Senate Health and Human Services committee. Her legislative website also contains little information on her health care-related priorities going into next session. She co-sponsored the aforementioned 2015 bill that prevented insurance coverage of abortions through any healthcare exchange in Arizona. 
  • Becky Nutt (R): Rep. Nutt was first elected to the House in 2016 and is not currently serving on the Health committee. On her campaign website, she describes herself as “unapologetically pro-life,” but does not state any opinions on health care beyond that.

    Nutt co-sponsored the controversial bill incoming Chair Rep. Barto sponsored that requires doctors to ask women seeking abortions to answer a list of specific questions. She’s also co-sponsored a few other health care-related bills, including one that prohibits discrimination against health care workers who decline to provide care that would end a persons life (e.g. assisted suicide).  
  • Alma Hernandez (D): Next session will be Member-Elect Hernandez’s first time serving in public office. Her background is in public health; her campaign website says she majored in Care Health and Society with a minor in Public Health at The University of Arizona before getting a Masters in Public Health at UA. She also studied Epidemiology in Evidence-Based Policy and Social Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

    Most recently, her website says, Hernandez “led Arizonans United for Healthcare working to defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.” 
  • Amish Shah (D): Member-Elect Shah is also joining the House for the first time. He’s an ER doctor, and his campaign website makes it clear that he’ll be fighting for universal healthcare access:

“I stand for ALL AMERICANS to have ease of access,” Shah’s website reads. “When you are sick, you come to me and focus on getting well, not your wallet. And if you stand for being cruel to other Americans, then I will work to throw you out of office.”

Jay Lawrence (R), Kelli Butler (D), and Pamela Powers Hannley (D) are current members who will remain on the committee. Rep. Lawrence, a former talk show host who was first elected to the House in 2014, will now serve as Vice Chair. Rep. Butler, who was first elected in 2016 and co-owns Butler Family Dental in Glendale, will serve as Ranking Member.

One last note: The press release from the Arizona House Republicans announcing committee assignments referred to next session’s committee as “Health & Human Services.” Last session, it was called, simply, the House Health Committee. We’ve reached out for comment on that, but as of yet haven’t learned whether the name change is official and whether such a change would reflect a change, also, in the scope of the committee’s work.