Final update from Olympia for 2023 Legislative Session

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

Table of contents

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

End of session

On Sunday, April 23rd the state legislature adjourned the 2023 legislative session. It was a busy session with a significant number of wins for nurses. To see the full break down of what we won and where we fell short, you can check out WSNA’s 2023 End of Session report.

Governor signs the safe staffing bill into law

On April 20th, the Governor signed E2SSB 5236, the safe staffing bill, into law. Because the Governor’s office is still operating under COVID restrictions the bill signing was limited to just a handful of people. But we are not going to let that stop us from celebrating.

The WA Safe + Healthy Coalition is planning victory parties around the state on Thursday, May 11th from 6-8pm, please feel free to drop in any time within that timeframe. The locations of each are listed below and can be found here as well:

  • Seattle: Seattle Labor Temple, 5030 1st Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98134
  • Spokane: UFCW 3000 Office, 2805 N. Market St., Spokane, WA 99207
  • Tri-Cities: Location TBD
  • Silverdale: UFCW 3000 Office, 3888 NW Randall Way #105, Silverdale, WA 98383
  • Tacoma: Shiloh Baptist Church, 1211 S I St, Tacoma, Washington 98405
  • Mt Vernon: UFCW 3000 Office, 1510 N 18th St, Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
  • Everett: Snohomish County Labor Temple, 2810 Lombard Ave, Everett, WA 98201
  • Olympia: Washington State Labor Council, 906 Columbia St. SW (2nd floor), Olympia, WA 98501
  • Yakima: SEIU 1199NW Office, 415 N 20th Ave., Yakima, WA 98902

The staffing law has a rolling implementation timeline. WSNA is working with our partners at SEIU 1199 and UFCW 3000 to educate members on their new rights under the law. Stay tuned for more information over the coming months.

PTSD bill passes the legislature

On April 18th, The Senate voted to concur with the improvements made by the House to 2SSB 5454. The bill passed the Senate 30-18. 2SSB 5454 changes the workers compensation standard for nurses suffering from PTSD from an occupational injury to an occupational disease. As an occupational disease nurses can now qualify for workers compensation for their on-the-job PTSD based on an accumulation of events. The previous law required that nurses be able to tie their PTSD to a specific event. The bill also includes a presumption that if a nurse contract PTSD they got it on the job, and it is on the employer to prove otherwise. The bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Once the bill is signed it will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Final budget released

The Washington State Legislature passed its 2023-25 operating budget on April 23rd. The final budget includes nearly $70 billion in state spending. The legislature approved major increases in spending for public schools, housing, and environmental and mental health programs. The budget also includes a major investment in funding for salaries and benefits of state workers. Additionally, the legislature increased state spending on mental and behavioral health programs by $603 million. Most of that funding goes towards new treatment facilities and more community-based housing to support people with developmental and chronic mental illness. The legislature also made the largest increase in funding to public education since addressing funding in compliance to the McCleary decision in 2018.

Nearly $11 million dollars of the budget was allocated for the implementation of the Safe Staffing bill. Most of that funding goes to the Department of Health and Department of Labor & Industries who are responsible for enforcing the law. An additional $2.7 million was allocated to the Department of Health to investigate the backlog of staffing complaints that accumulated during the public health emergency.

The legislature invested over $10 million in public university nursing programs including $4.9 million for Eastern Washington University to launch their own Bachelor of Science in Nursing program for the 2023-24 academic year. They also invested $3.6 million into the Community & Technical College nursing programs. The legislature also appropriated over $6 million in funding to four public agencies to help increase the nurse workforce supply.

Future legislative work and advocacy opportunities

Even though the 2023 session is officially over, our Government Affairs work does not stop. We are already preparing for the 2024 legislative session. If you are interested to learn more about how WSNA’s Government Affairs team develops priorities and how you can contribute, check out the Legislative & Political Advocacy section of the WSNA website.