2024 Legislative Outcomes

60 days of policymaking and passing updates to state budgets concluded on March 7 when Washington’s annual state legislative session adjourned. Similar to last year, Life Science Washington (LSW) had a modest legislative agenda of budget priorities and policy bills to monitor, support, or seek to improve. In the end, legislators largely declined to make sweeping new policies and updated the two-year biennial state budgets with additional investments in housing, behavioral health, and education.

Below is an update on legislative issues Life Science Washington worked on this session:

  • Andy Hill Cancer Research Endowment (CARE Fund) – Legislators made additional investments to support cancer research and fully fund the CARE Fund. With an additional $9.5M available for grants, the full investment for the 2023-25 biennium now stands at $31,684,000.
  • Career Connected Learning – Funding to connect students with career-focused learning opportunities received an additional $1M.
  • University of Washington Chemical Sciences Building – The supplemental capital budget made a new investment of $5M for design funding for the new Chemical Sciences building at the University of Washington in Seattle to replace the 100-year-old Bagley Hall.

Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB)
As anticipated, legislators did not take action on legislation introduced last year to dramatically expand the scope of the state’s nascent PDAB. The bill would have increased the number of drugs eligible for price caps, allowed more drugs to be reviewed by the Board, and chip away at additional guardrails we previously secured. LSW will continue monitoring the implementation of the PDAB and work with our advocacy partners to fend off future attempts to expand the drug pricing scheme.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This session, the legislature took its first major foray into considering new state policies to regulate AI, with bills introduced to provide consumer protections regarding decisions made by automated decision-making machines, among others. Legislators chose to set aside broad new policies in favor of legislation creating a task force charged with making recommendations on how the state may consider regulating AI. LSW met with bill sponsors to educate them about how the life sciences industry uses AI as a scientific research tool for accelerating existing human-directed data processing for the development of new drugs, optimizing clinical trials, and improving the understanding of complex biological processes. The final AI task force bill includes a mix of government agencies and private sector representatives as task force members, with advisory committees set to provide input on various areas where they can provide expertise. LSW will monitor task force activities and provide input as necessary to make sure AI can continue to be used as a tool for discovery and data processing.

Right to Repair
LSW partnered with AdvaMed before the legislative session began to meet with lawmakers and educate them about how potential legislation allowing Right to Repair for medical devices would harm patients. Together, we successfully fended off such a bill. Our previous efforts to exempt medical devices for Right to Repair legislation for consumer electronics like phones and laptops also worked to ensure that a new Right to Repair bill was introduced with the exemption already in place. The bill did not pass, and we will continue working with our advocacy partners to ensure that any future legislation continues to exempt medical devices.

Biomarker Testing Coverage
The American Cancer Society continued leading efforts to guarantee coverage for biomarker testing, and the coalition was successful in stripping an amendment that would narrow the bill to only apply for biomarker testing for certain cancers. While the bill ultimately did not pass, that progress sets the stage for continuing work through the rest of the year to convince legislators that early detection and treatment saves lives and reduces costs for patients and health systems.

Rare Disease Advisory Council
A proposal by local parent advocates to elevate the needs of families impacted by rare disease was again considered this year to advise state government on policies to improve health care access, early diagnosis, and medical education programs. Although a new strategy helped overcome previous bureaucratic opposition, the bill was not scheduled for a committee hearing in time to advance past the required deadline. LSW will continue working with rare disease advocates to advance the needs of families and children impacted by rare diseases.

LSW also weighed in on select legislation not originally included in our policy agenda that would impact the life sciences.

Whole Genome Sequencing
LSW has long partnered with rare disease advocates as our region is a leader in finding breakthroughs that can help deliver better outcomes through diagnosis and treatment. Whole genome sequencing can particularly help children who are born with rare diseases. We were glad to help apply pressure to House leadership to allow a vote on a bill that has been proven in other states to reduce costs to health systems by helping ensure families can access whole genome sequencing as part of their treatment plan. Unfortunately, the bill was not prioritized for action by the legislature this year.

Waste Management and Recycling
For the second year, legislators considered major new policy to apply new postconsumer recycling content and other recycling-related requirements on producers of certain paper and packaging products. The bill excluded certain drugs and medical devices, but only those regulated by the FDA under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. We worked with BIO to secure an amendment to reference biologics and vaccines, which are regulated under a different federal act, the Public Health Service Act. While the bill did not pass, we will watch for future similar legislation to ensure proper exemption for drugs, biologics, vaccines, and medical devices.

Primate Research
We monitored new legislation that would have applied additional transparency requirements to the Washington National Primate Research Center at the University of Washington, many of which the Center already voluntarily provides. Ultimately, the bill did not pass.