Nursing bill passes state legislature, heads to Gov. Walz’s desk

[anvplayer video=”5178260″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – State lawmakers made some 11th hour changes to a nursing bill that included plans that caused controversy to give nurses more say in staffing levels.

The final deal was made late Monday night, but it wasn’t the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. Due to the number of changes made in the bill, lawmakers had to give it a new name.

RELATED: Lawmakers, nurses compromise on proposed nurse staffing legislation

The House of Representatives passed the Nurse and Patient Safety Act by a vote of 112-17, and the new bill removes some controversial language that would have given Mayo Clinic an exemption to some language that would have given nurses more say in staffing levels.

The bill includes several nursing-related provisions previously part of the larger bill, including a study on nurse staffing and retention, new protections against workplace violence, and childcare assistance and student loan forgiveness for nurses.

“This is not what we came here to do, but this is still a meaningful step forward for nurses that they deserve,” said Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton).

“So, while this bill got a lot better, we took what was a completely untenable – particularly for rural hospitals – and we’ve made it something pretty benign, but there will still be costs associated with this bill,” said Rep. Anne New Brindley (R-North Branch).

However, that exception didn’t sit well with some democrats in the state senate, so that main part of the bill was dropped Monday.

Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), said while nurses didn’t get everything they wanted and needed in the final version of the bill, supporters still consider it a “big damned deal.”

Earlier this month, Mayo Clinic threatened to pull millions of dollars in investments out of Minnesota should its health system be included in the bill.

“We came to the session fighting for our efforts to keep nurses at the bedside,” said Murphy. “What we have in this provision is important, transformative work for nurses, for direct care workers, and the patients in their care.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), which represents 15,000 nurses, was a huge supporter of the original bill, and held a sit-in for weeks at the state Capitol to try and get it passed.

“Today, my heart breaks for the patients in Minnesota. We came here to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. Because of the power and influence of corporate healthcare executive, that bill has died.

For those nurses who choose to stay at the bedside, the language in this agreement will help them to feel safe in their jobs. It will help them to care for their children, to find relief from heavy student loans. It will meaningfully improve the lives and the work of those nurses who choose to stay in our profession.

The strong protections against workplace violence are especially critical. These strongest-in-the-nation protections will be a godsend to many of our nurses on the most understaffed units.

Today’s outcome, and the events of the last three weeks, make clear that the outsized power of corporate executives is alive and well. It is alive and well in Minnesota, in the halls of power, and in the halls of our hospitals. The strong-arm bully tactics of hospital CEOs that all Minnesotans have suffered this last week are the same tactics nurses experience every day in the workplace.

Brave legislative champions for the people- especially lead authors of this bill Senator Erin Murphy and Representative Sandra Feist, as well as Senator Jim Abeler, Senator Liz Boldon, Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic and Speaker Melissa Hortman – stood with nurses and did everything they could to resist the crushing power of corporate demands.

We are thankful for their strong support, but make no mistake: these victories were not given by anyone in this building; they were demanded by nurses who spent hundreds of hours at the Capitol, many traveling hundreds of miles from Greater Minnesota, to testify on this bill and meet with their legislators. They held space in the halls of power and spoke out even when they risked retaliation or termination by their employers.

I hope Minnesotans know how hard nurses fought for your care and safety. And I hope corporate executives and our public officials know that our fight is not over to put patients before profits in our healthcare system.”

Mary Turner, MNA President

Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic released the following statement on the legislative session:

“Throughout the legislative session, Mayo Clinic remained steadfast in our position to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of our patients and staff and lead the transformation of health care. Mayo Clinic would like to express our gratitude to everyone who embraced that commitment with us.

In particular, we are thankful to Gov. Walz and his team for their exceptional partnership and leadership. Gov. Walz, Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Dziedzic have expressed firm support for Mayo Clinic and for our desire to grow and invest in health care and our communities. We share the goal of making Minnesota the state that leads the future transformation of health care.

We remain grateful for our nurses, and all health care workers, who serve patients with dedication and compassion every day. We share the governor’s and legislature’s commitment to continue addressing the challenges facing nurses — including nationwide staffing shortages and increasing violence against health care workers — just as we remain committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation to cure, connect and transform health care for patients in Minnesota and around the world.”

Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic

The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Tim Walz, who is expected to sign it into law.