2024 legislative session overview

These are the four legislative priorities WSNA pursued in the 2024 legislative session and how each fared.

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2024 issue of The Washington Nurse.

15 2024 legislative session overview

The 2024 legislative session was a short 60-day session that ended March 7. Typically, a short session focuses on the maintenance of budget and operations and passes fewer bills than in a longer 105-day session. This year was an exception to that rule with a record-breaking 1,200 bills proposed.

Things started off fast and furiously with committee meetings and big ideas proposed in the first week. In the end, just over 300 bills made it through the state legislature that will be put in front of the governor for signature.

Below are the four legislative priorities WSNA pursued in the 2024 legislative session and how each fared.

2024 WSNA Policy Priorities

School Nurses: Standing Order for Medication - PASSED

λ HB 1608 creates statewide standing orders allowing school nurses to administer the emergency medication epinephrine or epinephrine injectors. The bill builds on existing law that provides standing orders for Narcan in school settings. The bill started in the House Education Committee and passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. It was delivered to the governor on March 4 and signed into law on March 14. The bill takes effect 90 days after the adjournment of session.

Property Tax Cap - DEAD

λ SB 5770 lifted the property tax cap from 1% to 3%, allowing counties the ability to raise revenue up to 3% annually to pay for things like public health, law enforcement, parks, and other services provided by the county. This bill was picked up in the Senate Ways & Means Committee where it left off in the 2023 legislative session. After the public hearing and executive action was taken to pass it out of Ways & Means, it was announced that leadership in the House, Senate, and governor’s office would not be supporting the bill this session due to contention surrounding the bill. It died in Ways & Means, and the issue of funding for public health, most notably in King County, remains an outstanding issue. King County officials have said public health clinics would close if a funding source did not come to fruition. WSNA represents nurses at Seattle/King County Public Health and a handful of other public health departments around the state.

ARNP Reimbursement Parity - DEAD

λ SB 5373 required all health carriers to reimburse advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants at the same rate as physicians. The bill started in the Senate Ways & Means Committee where it left off in the 2023 legislative session. Ultimately, it was not voted out of the Ways & Means Committee in executive session and therefore died in committee. One of the concerns indicated was the potential costs to the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) and School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB) programs, which are state-funded.

Keep Our Care Act (KOCA) - DEAD

λ SB 5241, known as the Keep Our Care Act (KOCA) or the “mergers and acquisitions bill,” added oversight and transparency by the Office of the Attorney General to the mergers and acquisitions process of healthcare entities. The bill was in its fourth year in front of the legislature and made more progress in this session than it had in past sessions. This year, the bill successfully made it out of the Senate by a floor vote of 28-21 and then moved over to the House. It passed both the House Civil Rights & Judiciary and Appropriations committees. Both sides of the aisle proposed several amendments. After a large and successful push in opposition to the bill, it was determined that there was not enough support to see it voted off the House floor, so it was not brought to a vote and died.

Final budget and wrap-up

The Washington State Legislature passed its supplemental 2023-25 operating budget on the last day of session. This is a supplemental budget, which means this budget provides updates to the 2023-25 biennial budget passed in 2023. This year’s budget adds an additional $2.1 billion in spending before the end of 2025 to the $69.8 billion approved in the 2023 session for the biennium.

Going into session this year, the focus was behavioral health, housing, and transportation. With that, the final budget includes maintenance-level increases for Medicaid, assistance for food for kids and seniors, easing K-12 enrollment caseloads, and increasing school staff salaries. Money was also allocated for behavioral health, electric school buses, utility customer rebates, more money for ferries, funds to combat substance abuse disorder and the opioid epidemic, special education, school construction, and an increase in state childcare reimbursements. Some funding was set aside for housing and homelessness programs, and more.

It is worth noting that the $249 million acquired from the Climate Commitment Act is spread around the budget. These are proceeds from the sales of emissions allowanced to the state’s largest polluters. Because of a pending ballot initiative to erase the law, some of those dollars cannot be spent until January 2025, when voters’ decision is final. It is also worth noting that three of the six initiatives to the legislature were heard by lawmakers and passed off the floor this session. The other three initiatives will go to the ballot this November for voters to decide and, if turned down, will have an impact on future budgets.

Many legislators retiring

Many legislators are leaving the legislature by retiring or running for another office this election year. Therefore, we should expect to see some shifts before the next legislative session in 2025.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming months on our website and email updates from WSNA Government Affairs and WSNA PAC. WSNA will provide endorsements and guidance on how to get involved in races of candidates who have been vetted by your WSNA PAC Board of Trustees as supportive of nurses.

2024 Nurse Lobby Day

WSNA’s Nurse Lobby Day in Olympia took place on Jan. 24 with around 70 WSNA nurses and staff who met with their legislators about WSNA’s four legislative priorities this session.

This year, the government affairs department brought in great speakers from partner organizations leading our 2024 legislative priorities. The speakers brought these bills to life and offered great information.

Those speakers were:

  • Louise Kaplan, PhD, ARNP, FAANP, FAAN — a former WSNA president, an associate professor at Washington State University College of Nursing, and a family nurse practitioner — spoke on ARNP Payment Reimbursement Parity (SB 5373). Kaplan started Nurse Lobby Day at WSNA.
  • Erica Hallock — contract lobbyist for the School Nurses Organization of Washington (SNOW) — spoke on Standing Order for Epinephrine for School Nurses (HB 1608).
  • Jessica Hauffe — WSNA’s director of government affairs — spoke on Updating the Property Tax Cap to Support Public Health (SB 5770).
  • Lorena Gonzalez — legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington — spoke on the Keep Our Care Act (SB 5241).

Nurse Lobby Day is an annual event and a great hands-on experience for members to learn how to engage with legislators and influence public policy within the legislative process. Members learn how to talk about bills to legislators. They also get an opportunity to practice with each other using supportive data and personal stories. Before they meet with their legislators, members are given their professional biographies and voting records to see how they have voted on WSNA priorities in the past.

For those legislators who have been champions for nurses, members thank them. For those legislators who have not been as supportive of our past priorities, members can engage with them on how we might gain their support.