WSNA’s update from Olympia and the 2023 legislative session

Read the latest about the Safe Staffing Standards bill, presumptive eligibility for nurses with PTSD and other nurse bills moving in Olympia. In this week’s update you'll find a recap on week 11.

Welcome to WSNA's update from Olympia and the 2023 legislative session.

In this week’s update you'll find a recap on week 11 including:

1. Spring revenue forecast

2. Budget update - Senate releases 2023-25 budget proposal

3. Update on Safe Staffing Standards bill - Action Alert below

4. Expanding workers compensation for nurses with PTSD

1. Spring revenue forecast

On Monday, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the Spring Revenue Forecast. The revenue forecast is a projection of the financial health based on anticipated state revenue for the state for the next several biennia. This year’s revenue forecast indicated that while there will be a $194 million revenue increase this biennium, the next two biennia WA will experience a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall. We expect the final 2024-25 budget to reflect this shortfall through reductions in state spending.

2. Budget update - Senate releases 2023-25 budget proposal

On Thursday, the Senate released their proposed budget for the next biennium. The Senate fiscal committee, Ways & Means, heard testimony on the proposal on Friday. The house is expected to release their own proposal next week with a hearing in the house fiscal committee, Appropriations, the following day. As both proposals work their way through the legislative process, behind the scenes budget writers will be working to align their budgets.

The Senate budget invests $69 billion in government spending. The budget includes major spending for affordable housing, behavioral health, and education. According to Senate budget writers, $5.1 billion of the new spending does not rely on any new taxes or fees and $3.8 billion is set aside to guard against an economic slowdown.

The Senate budget includes significant funding for nurses. The senate budget allocates $7.5 million to 4 agencies to implement SB 5236, the safe staffing bill. Included in the budget is around $12 million to expand nurse education programs at public four year universities and community and technical colleges. Nearly 1 million is included in the budget to cover SB 5454 which expands workers comp to nurses to cover PTSD. The budget also includes around $1.4 million for Washington state to join the multistate nurse licensure compact. The budget also includes $2.3 million for the nursing commission to address the increase in nurse licensure requests.

3. Update on Safe Staffing Standards bill - Action Alert below

The House Labor committee unanimously voted our safe staffing bill, SB 5236, out of committee on Tuesday morning. The committee respected the prime sponsor Senator Robinson’s requested they “not change a comma” and no amendments were added. The bill is now in the House Appropriations committee and is waiting for a hearing to be scheduled there. If passed through Appropriations successfully it will go to a House floor vote.

.4. Expanding workers compensation for nurses with PTSD

The House labor committee voted SB 5454 out of the policy committee on Friday morning. The committee adopted an amendment proposed by Rep. Fosse (D-Everett) that restored the presumption to the bill. An earlier version of this bill included a presumption of eligibility for PTSD for nurses, but that presumption was removed in the Ways & Means committee due to high costs to the state. Since then, stakeholders have learned that the presumption did not have a significant cost to it after all. As a result, we have asked House members to add the presumption back into the bill. Once the bill is voted out of the House, the Senate will have to vote to agree with the updated bill or they can ask the House to remove the amendment.

If SB 5454 becomes law, nurses would no longer need to associate their PTSD with a specific incident to qualify for workers compensation. The bill includes a presumption that if the nurse has PTSD they got it on the job and it is the responsibility of the employer to prove otherwise.

The bill will now move to the Appropriations committee for another hearing.