What makes a good legislative priority?

These questions must be considered before WSNA can adopt an idea as a priority for an upcoming legislative session.

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Every year the Washington state Legislature meets to create a state budget and pass legislation. WSNA has the opportunity to weigh in on the process either by providing feedback on proposed legislation or by working with a legislator to bring forward our own legislative ideas.

The Legislative & Health Policy Council (LHPC) is an elected/appointed body of WSNA members that determine what issues WSNA will include on our legislative agenda.

But not every idea is created equal. Here are some of the areas that the LHPC must consider before deciding to adopt an idea as a legislative priority for an upcoming session.

Does the state legislature have jurisdiction over the issue?

The legislature has the power to influence and control many issues in our society, but not every issue is necessarily a legislative one. Here are some examples of issues that the legislature does not have control over: individual facility contract negotiations; Governor mandates; federal taxes and law; court cases; city/county legislation; agency rule-making by the Washington State Board of Nursing.

Is now the right time to address the issue?

As an organization that represents the voices of over 100,000 nurses in the state, WSNA has a unique and important voice in the political conversation. But WSNA has only so much influence over the state legislative process, and we must wield that power carefully.

It is important to consider the timing of a policy issue. Important questions to ask:

  • Is this topic popular among the public right now?
  • Is there a significant division among WSNA membership?
  • Did the legislature recently take action on the issue?
  • Have others tried and failed to pass legislation on the issue?

Is WSNA the right group to lead the effort on the issue?

As the professional association for nurses in our state, WSNA’s opinion is sought after when it comes to issues facing nurses. WSNA must lead the conversation when it comes to topics such as nursing scope of practice, health care working conditions, and nursing education. In broader health care and safety legislation, WSNA can and should also weigh in, but we are not always the best voice for leading the conversation; we can always act as a supporting voice in those conversations, however. Examples include broad labor legislation that impacts multiple sectors, broad access to health care legislation, and public safety legislation.

Does WSNA have the bandwidth to lead the effort on the issue?

WSNA must consider the internal time and energy a bill will take when deciding whether to take on an issue. What else is WSNA putting forward? Will WSNA resources be stretched too thin?

Are there legislative champions?

It’s important to do pre-session work on an issue to identify legislative champions. Bills must be sponsored by a legislator. If WSNA cannot identify champions, the bill is likely not ready for legislative consideration.

Is there a cost to the state for the proposal?

Most legislation has a financial cost. It is important to consider the price tag and the fiscal environment, as cost can greatly influence a proposal’s viability.

Has sufficient background research been conducted to substantiate the request?

Is there research and data on the topic? Have other stakeholders done work on this issue before? It is crucial to identify the pro and con arguments likely to arise in conversations with legislators, other advocates, and opponents.

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