State Rep. Matt Baker bows out for Trump administration appointment

Former state Rep. Matt Baker - from his website

Former state Rep. Matt Baker - from his website

Matt Baker, who became well-known for his campaigns against opioid and pornography addiction during his 13 terms as a Republican state Rep., has landed a new posting – courtesy of the Trump administration.

The former 68th District House member was quietly sworn in as regional director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

“I was two days away from mailing my petitions to seek a 14th term in office when the White House liaison office called me and I had to make a quick decision,” Baker said. 

The IEA serves as a bridge between federal social service efforts and state, city and tribal governments – helping to coordinate major health programs, like Medicare and Medicaid. Baker’s regional office covers Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Northern Tier politician said he made his first trip to Washington, D.C., in October for President Donald Trump’s announcement declaring the opioid epidemic a national health emergency. About two months later, he was notified that he would be vetted for the IEA position.

Baker credits his four terms as majority chair of the House Health Committee with clinching the posting.

“These are subjects I’m quite familiar with from being head of Health Committee,” he said. “I led the debate on the floor of the House about creating a prescription drug monitoring program that now lets people deal with ‘doctor shopping’ by creating a monitoring system for opioids.”

Baker also noted his work on legislation that expanded access to oral chemotherapy and hepatitis-C testing. 

He has also been involved with more controversial pieces of legislation, including a bipartisan bill preventing the state Department of General Services from doing business with contractors that had boycotted Israeli products and a failed effort to label pornography a public health crisis.

“That (anti-porn bill) was an interesting piece of legislation that the Pennsylvania Family Institute had asked me to introduce. But it needed some more work; it was really just a rough draft,” he said. “Upon my resignation, I don't expect that particular bill to advance.” 

In a Monday phone interview, Baker added he was particularly proud to serve under Trump, whom he believes embodies many similar values.

“He’s very serious about improving quality of life and reducing deaths, and so many other issues that I also support,” Baker said. “I’m just honored to serve the Secretary of Health and the President...It’s a great honor to serve my country. I believe public service should be a noble pursuit and should not be self-focused.”

State House Speaker Mike Turzai has set a date for a special election to fill Baker’s seat that will overlap with the May primary.