New Utah state senator brings medical expertise
Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, is one of four new faces in the Utah State Senate for this year's legislative session.
Shiozawa defeated his District 8 opponent, Democrat Josie Valdez, by 13 percentage points in November. The seat had been held by Democratic Sen. Karen Morgan, who decided to retire after four years in the Senate and 10 in the House.
Shiozawa's seat adds to the 24-5 state Senate Republican majority. Republicans make up 81.7 percent of the 2013 Legislature.
The freshly minted senator had been a board-certified emergency physician for more than 20 years before he decided to run for office. During the 2012 legislative session, Shiozawa spoke at the Capitol about legislation regarding patient advocacy, public health and preserving the doctor-patient relationship.
"After this, I realized that Utah needed someone who knows the medical field. Someone who could help create effective laws and legislation that could benefit the patients," he said.
The physician focused his 2012 campaign on health care, education, public safety, small business, honesty and ethics. When asked about his election victory, he said it was a "big blessing" for him. Shiozawa is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Shiozawa believes his background as a doctor will benefit the Legislature on health-care issues, including affordable health care, Medicaid reform, the state's health exchange and autism.
He is on four committees this session and is chairman of the Business, Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee. He is also the chief sponsor of SB55, which amends the Insurance Code to provide health-benefit plan coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
The autism bill has already become one of the most talked-about this session. SB55 passed through to the Senate Business and Labor Committee and early this week was awaiting action on the Senate floor.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who voted in favor of SB55, said the bill has introduced much-needed discussion on the treatment of the devastating disease. Utah's rate of autism is 1 in 47 children, the highest in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"While I'm not in favor of mandates, this bill presents parents with an autistic child an option. I look forward to working with Senator Shiozawa on this, and I believe he is an excellent addition to our Senate with his experience as a doctor," Weiler said.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, along with Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, voted against the measure in committee.
Despite her opposition, Henderson praised Shiozawa. "I have high respect for him. I think he is doing what he thinks is right," she said.
SB55 is one of the many items that Shiozawa has been working on during the legislative session.
He works with Sen. Luz Robles, D- Salt Lake City, on three of the committees he is on. "I don't know him too well; I am pleasantly surprised with how passionate and articulate the senator has been so far," Robles said.
Robles is one of the five state senators who are Democrats. While she was disappointed to see Morgan's Senate seat go to a Republican, she's happy it went to a moderate one such as Shiozawa.
When asked about his political aspirations, Shiozawa said he doesn't plan on being a career politician. "Call me in 3 1/2 years."
He still works at St. Mark's Hospital and plans to return to work two days after the session ends.
Attended Stanford University for his bachelor's degree, obtained his M.D. from the University of Washington and completed his residency at the University of Utah.
Past president of the Utah Medical Association and the Medical Staff of St. Mark's Hospital.
Served as a member of Governor Gary Herbert's Healthcare Task Force.