The Potluck

Mayo Clinic exemption leads Minnesota lawmakers to rethink nurse staffing bill

By: - May 22, 2023 5:13 pm

Nurses wait in the halls of the Capitol as Minnesota senators try to reach a last-minute deal on a bill aimed at increasing nurse staffing levels on May 22, 2023. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

A nurse staffing bill that seemed destined to become law just less than three weeks ago, is now in jeopardy in the final hours of session.

The Minnesota Senate on Monday afternoon was trying to hammer out a last-minute compromise on a bill that aims to increase nurse staffing levels.

The bill, which has faced fierce opposition from hospitals, would mandate that hospitals create committees made up equally of nurses and other direct care workers and hospital leaders to set staffing ratios.

The source of the upheaval is a proposed carve out for Mayo Clinic, which the hospital giant won after threatening to move billions of dollars in future investments out of state if lawmakers didn’t gut the bill.

Gov. Tim Walz pressured legislators to exempt all of Mayo Clinic. But that exemption forced other lawmakers to rethink their support of the bill — the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act (SF1384).

“I’m very concerned by the Mayo carve out. It’s bad public policy. Everyone should play by the same rules and the same laws,” said Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, on Monday afternoon. She’s a doctor for Allina Health.

With a one seat majority in the Senate, Democrats must be in full agreement in order to move any legislation forward.

The Senate has already passed all major budget and infrastructure bills, giving the bill’s proponents no leverage left to force passage of the bill.

Senate DFL sources said they were optimistic that an agreement could be reached, though the compromise could significantly weaken the power of the proposed staffing committees.

The nurses’ union, which has been advocating for staffing ratios in some form for 15 years, say hospital staffing is dangerously low and is causing nurses to leave the bedside and patients to suffer.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.