WSNA in Olympia: 2021 Legislative Session End of Session

The legislature adjourned Sine Die on April 25, marking the end of the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session.

In this week’s update:

  • End of Session Report
  • Budget Priorities Funded
  • Policy Priority Wins

End of Session Report

The legislature adjourned Sine Die on April 25, marking the end of the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session. While the remote session presented new challenges, it also allowed for greater public participation – and the legislature made significant accomplishments. Read about the broader budget and policy successes in WSNA’s 2021 End of Session Report.

Budget Priorities Funded

HB 1272 (Health System Transparency)
HB1272 is ready to be signed by the Governor. The bill passed the Senate Saturday on party lines with a 27-21 vote. The bill then went back to the House on Tuesday where they concurred with the Senate amendments 57-41. The bill was signed by the Speaker on Wednesday.

After two decades of advocacy for public health and school nursing, WSNA’s top two budget priorities were funded:

  • Foundational Public Health Services
    $147M in new funding for the 2021-23 biennium
    $148M per year in 2024 and 2025
  • School Nurse Corps
    $11.87M the amount that WSNA/SNOW requested

Additionally, after holding three listening sessions with our Public Health Nurse members to inform our position, WSNA supported HB 1152 to provide some updates to our state’s public health system – that bill also passed:

Public Health Districts – PASSED

HB 1152 establishes a statewide Public Health Advisory Board under the DOH and includes a seat for WSNA. The Advisory Board will monitor the performance of, and provide recommendations to, the governmental public health system and will also evaluate public health emergency response and the use of FHPS funding. The bill also creates a new requirement that local boards of health must include non-elected members that are public health practitioners, consumers of public health, and community stakeholders. Boards that are currently comprised of only elected officials can retain current composition if the local health jurisdiction had a public health advisory committee or board within its bylaws established by January 1, 2021. The bill passed the House, 56-41, and the Senate, 26-22. The bill is waiting to be signed into law by the Governor.

Policy Priority Wins

This session also brought many policy successes, including in our priority areas of health system transparency, worker protections and workplace safety, and racial equity and justice:

Health System Transparency – PASSED
Sponsor: Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle)

HB 1272 requires hospital to provide additional detail regarding expenses and revenues in financial reports to DOH. The bill eliminates the exemption from reporting information about facility fees for off-campus clinics or providers that are located within 250 yards of the main hospital building. The bill also updates Community Benefit requirements, including that Community Health Needs Assessments made public by hospitals include an addendum must contain certain information about activities identified as community health improvement services. The bill requires hospitals to post information on their websites if they have an ownership interest in a debt collection agency or have certain exchanges of revenue with debt collection agencies. Considering COVID and increased awareness on health equity this year’s version of the bill also included requirements for hospitals to collect and report on demographic information of discharged patients (voluntary participation from the patient). The 2021 version of the bill also includes an interdisciplinary study on outcomes related acute care hospital staffing; UW School of Nursing is named as the lead entity for the study, which must be completed by September 2022. The bill passed the House, 58-40, and the Senate. 27-21. It is waiting to be signed into law by the Governor.

Presumptive Eligibility for Health Care Workers – PASSED
Sponsor: Senator Jeff Holy (R-Spokane)

SB 5190 provides "presumptive eligibility" for health care workers during COVID-19 or any other federal or state declared health emergency. This means that the state will assume nurses and other health care workers contracted the virus or disease that is the subject of the health emergency at work, by virtue of the fact that nurses are working around it every shift. During COVID-19 or another declared health emergency, this bill makes it easier for nurses and other health care workers to access workers compensation and unemployment benefits. It has a “clear and convincing” evidence standard for employers to rebut the presumption. The bill received bipartisan support in both legislative chambers: it passed the Senate, 34-14, and the House, 84-14. The bill will be signed into law by the Governor soon.

Health Emergency Labor Standards Act – PASSED
Sponsor: Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines)

SB 5115 creates presumptive eligibility for non-health care essential workers for workers compensation and unemployment during a declared federal health emergency of a declared state emergency in every county of the state. Additionally, the bill requires employers to notify their employees and their employees’ union(s) within 24-hours of a known or suspected high-risk exposure to a disease that is the subject of a public health emergency. The bill passed almost unanimously out of the Senate, 48-1, and passed the House, 68-30. The bill is currently waiting to be signed by the Governor.

Anti-Retaliation – PASSED
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett)

HB 1097 provides additional anti-retaliation protections for workers and provides L&I with additional tools to address workplace safety hazards. The bill was Governor request legislation. It increases the time for whistleblowers to file a complaint with L&I from 30 days to 90 days. The bill also defines appropriate relief when retaliation occurs, which includes giving employees their job back and/or civil penalties. The bill passed the House, 53-47, and the Senate, 30-19. The bill is currently waiting to be signed by the Governor.

Worker Protection Act – DEAD
Sponsor: Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Kitsap)

HB 1076 provides a way for workers to effectively raise safety complaints and have them addressed in a timely, just manner. The bill gives workers and their advocates the ability to enforce labor and anti-discrimination laws on behalf of the state when the state is unable to do so itself. This is especially critical for enforcement of existing labor and workplace protections. HB 1076 passed out of the House, 53-44 votes. The bill was never brought up for a vote in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Health Equity Zones – PASSED
Sponsor: Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines)

SB 5052 requires DOH to create health equity zones statewide. The zones are tasked with developing projects that address and meet the needs of individual regions of the state. The bill allows for communities to self-identify as a health equity zone and develop their own projects. The budget appropriates $1.4 million dollars to fund the bill. The bill passed the Senate, 30-17, and the House, 57-40. The bill is currently waiting to be signed by the Governor.

Continuing Education for Medical Providers on Equity – PASSED
Sponsor: Senator Emily Randall (D-Kitsap)

SB 5229 requires licensed health professionals to complete continuing education training on health equity. Individual licensing boards are required to conduct rule making on the specific requirements for the Continuing Education credit. Training must be taken at least every four years. The bill also requires that a free option of the CE credit be offered. The bill passed the Senate, 35-14, and the House 57-41. The bill is waiting to be signed by the Governor.

In addition to these bills, many other good bills that WSNA supported are highlighted in our 2021 End of Session Report.

Thank you for being part of the process during the 2021 legislative session.

Senate Work Session on the Nurse Licensure Compact

On Wednesday, the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee held a work session on the Nurse Licensure Compact, which WSNA opposes. The work session was for members of the Senate and House Health Care Committees to learn more about the issue. WSNA was given 30 minutes to have panelists express their concerns, and proponents of the Compact were given the remaining 75 minutes to make their case.

WSNA’s Legislative & Health Policy Council Chair Justin Gill explained to Committee members how the Nurse Licensure Compact does not solve the problems proponents say it does – and that WSNA believes the Compact is fatally flawed and must be fixed at the national level.

Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association shared how the Compact has not resulted in increased staffing in Montana’s hospitals – and has resulted in significant revenue loss to the State Board of Nursing, which Montana nurses support through licensure fees. Vicky Hertig, Dean of Nursing for Seattle Colleges talked about reasons our state’s nursing schools are turning away 800 qualified applicants each year – and asked for the legislature and proponents of the Compact to help solve these very real problems. Finally, Debbie Brinker, Board Member for the Washington Center for Nursing talked about the Center’s role, created by the legislature, for workforce planning and data analysis and she emphasized how joining the Compact would create both a data and workforce planning problem since there is no registration requirement when a nurse with a Compact license enters a new state.

Speakers emphasized that WSNA and others – including other states – stand ready to work with the National Council for State Boards of Nursing to fix the Compact at the national level.

Additionally, New Mexico Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto shared his state’s experience with the Compact and cautioned Senators that by joining, they would be giving up much of their legislative authority over the nursing profession.

You can watch the work session here.

Thank you for being part of the process during the 2021 legislative session.