In this week’s update:
Today marks the 96th day of the 105-day 2021 legislative session. This week, legislators have been on the floor moving bills through the final stage of the process – and many WSNA priority bills are now on their way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Next week, we expect the negotiated final budget to be released and then session will adjourn sine die on April 25.
WSNA Priority Bills Headed to Governor
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.
SB 5190 (Presumptive Eligibility for Health Care Workers)
SB 5190 is on the Senate concurrence calendar but has not been voted on yet – this vote should happen next week.
SB 5115 (Health Emergency Labor Standards Act)
The Senate voted to concur on the house amendments on April 14 with the final passage vote being 32-16. The bill contains several protections for frontline workers during a public health emergency. The bill now goes to the Governor to sign into law. The final version of the bill includes a requirement for workplaces with 50 or more employees to provide confirmation within 24 hours when ten or more of their employees have tested positive for the contagious disease. The bill also requires employers to notify their employees, unions and subcontractors when there has been potential exposure to the disease.
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.