April 2-7, 2023: Week 13
After wrapping up preliminary floor action on budgets and fiscal committee work early in the week, the chambers returned to the floor to vote on bills Wednesday. Because policy bills must now pass the floor in the opposite chamber by April 12, legislators will spend long days and nights ahead in floor debate.
Money and power in healthcare has been on the minds of stakeholders and legislators the past few weeks and political dances have ensued. Two weeks ago, near the end of high-stakes negotiations on the hospital nurse staffing bill, SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38) and near the release of budgets, the Washington State Hospital Association released a survey showing total Washington hospital and health system losses grew to $2.7 billion in 2022 with more than $2.1 billion in losses from operations. WSHA points to several factors contributing to financial distress, including underfunding of Medicaid, higher costs for staff, supplies, medications, and patients who are difficult to discharge. And this week, Senator Emily Randall (D-26) introduced SB 5767, which would impose an excise tax on highly paid hospital executives. Likely on pro-choice Randall’s mind is the merger of Virginia Mason into CHI Franciscan Health in her district, which resulted in a hospital system for the Kitsap Peninsula that does not provide elective abortions or medical aid in dying. Randall already sponsored a now-dead bill this session targeting hospital mergers, SB 5241. Also likely on the agenda for legislative Democrats is a test of a bill that targets high pay with an excise tax on income.
Reproductive rights politics has played a large part in legislative conversations this week. Governor Jay Inslee announced this week that Washington has taken unprecedented action to purchase a three-year supply of mifepristone, an abortion medication, for $1.3 million. Inslee directed the state Department of Corrections, using its pharmacy license, to purchase the drug. Legislators then introduced SB 5768 (Keiser, D-33) / HB 1854 (Bateman, D-22) authorizing the Department of Corrections to distribute or sell the medication to licensed health providers across the state. This action is a response to a Texas court case that could remove mifepristone from the market. The Senate vehicle is scheduled for a hearing Monday, April 10 and for executive session Wednesday, April 12.
The Senate then debated one of the biggest bills of the session, the My Health, My Data Act, HB 1155 (Slatter, D-48) on Wednesday. This legislation was requested by the Attorney General and provides the consumer the right to access, delete, and withdraw consent from the collection, sharing, or selling of their consumer health data. Additionally, consumer health data may not be collected or shared without prior consent. Supporters say the bill is an urgent response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Opponents of the bill say the legislation is too broad. Opposition amendments to the Dhingra (D-45) striker were not accepted and the bill passed 27-21, with Senator Mullet (D-5) joining Republicans in opposition.
Reproductive Health Care Services
And on Thursday, the Senate took up HB 1340 (Riccelli, D-3), a bill that establishes that a health care provider’s participation in reproductive health care services or gender affirming treatment does not constitute unprofessional conduct under the Uniform Disciplinary Act (UDA) and may not serve as the basis for professional discipline. It also establishes that a conviction or disciplinary action based on a health care provider’s violation of another state’s laws prohibiting participation in reproductive health care services or gender affirming treatment does not constitute unprofessional conduct under the UDA and may not serve as the basis for professional discipline. The Senate adopted an amendment adding an emergency clause, preventing a referendum.
In a shift away from the majority’s focus on reproductive rights, the Senate passed HB 1106 (Fosse, D-38) on Thursday. The bill tests an extension of unemployment insurance for when an individual voluntarily leaves work under circumstances that include loss of childcare and or the need to care for a vulnerable adult. The bill requires the employment security department to provide a report to the legislature related to claims for separations between 2024 and 2028. Republicans called the bill a slippery slope, especially for small businesses, while some Democrats called it a gender-justice and equity issue.
Accessory Dwelling Units
On Thursday, the Senate passed HB 1337 (Gregerson, D-33). The bill requires cities and counties to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and prohibits certain regulations and restrictions on ADU construction. The bill also authorizes cities to adopt incentives for the construction of ADUs. It is reported that in the city of Seattle, more ADUs are now being constructed than single-family homes. Permitting of ADUs in Seattle has increased 250 percent from 2019 to 2022 after the city passed legislation to authorize them in more areas.
On Thursday, the House passed the long-negotiated hospital staffing bill, SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38). The bill makes numerous changes to nurse staffing committees and staffing plan requirements, including requiring hospitals to report noncompliance, requiring the Department of Health and Department of Labor and Industries to establish a formal agreement on oversight and enforcement roles, and creating a hospital staffing advisory committee. It also amends the meal and rest break provisions, and overtime provisions for health care employees. The bill passed 92-6.
The Senate also passed on Thursday HB 1335 (Hansen, D-23), the doxing bill. This legislation opens up a pathway for civil cause of action for individuals who have had their personal identifying information shared by a 3rd party who does so with malicious intent to cause harm. The bill enjoys broad bipartisan support and passed 40-7.
Looking ahead, if a bill has been amended in the opposite house, the house of origin will have the opportunity to concur, ask the opposite chamber to recede from the amendments, or the two chambers could appoint a conference committee to negotiate a final agreement between the two versions. Bills have until Sine Die to pass the final step.
- April 12 – Floor cutoff – opposite house
- April 23 – Sine Die
Source: Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting, Inc. | ceibaconsulting.com