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New year, new rules: 2024 brings new laws for Washington state

caption: The Washington Capitol in Olympia.
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The Washington Capitol in Olympia.

As a new year begins in Washington state, so do a range of new laws.

The laws were passed by state and local lawmakers over the course of 2023, and were scheduled to kick in on New Year's Day, or shortly before 2024.

Hospital staffing

Washington's hospitals now need to form staffing committees with nurses and administrators.

These committees need to create annual staffing plans, accounting for the nurse-to-patient ratio. Hospitals are also required to track how often they are not in compliance with their staffing plans.

The new law also states that fines will begin in 2027 if hospitals are not compliant with the standard 80% of the time.

Cannabis testing

Employers in Washington state are no longer allowed to test for cannabis when they make hiring decisions.

Employers can still test for other drugs. They can also screen employees for cannabis use after an incident if there is suspicion that a worker was under the influence while on the job.

Tenant protections

Voters in Tacoma and Bellingham passed initiatives aimed at protecting renters.

In Bellingham, landlords must provide four months of advance notice before they can raise rent. If the rent goes up more than 8% over a year, the owner may be required to help the tenant relocate.

In Tacoma, Measure 1 passed in November by a mere 370 votes (50.43%). It was a highly contested issue in the city. New renter protections went into effect in December.

There are new caps on rent increases and evictions. Late fees are capped at $10. Landlords must give two notices of a rent increase, as well as give a six-month notice. They also must provide financial relocation assistance if rent hikes are significant. Property owners also cannot evict tenants during cold weather or evict student tenants during the school year.

10-day waiting period to purchase a firearm

After the passage of HB-1143, a customer will now have to wait 10 days to receive a gun after purchasing it, in addition to passing the usual background check.

The waiting period to purchase a gun previously only applied to customers purchasing pistols and semiautomatic weapons.

The same law also requires Washington firearm customers to take a gun-safety course within five years of the purchase.

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