Although Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a routine bill that would have extended the Board of Registered Nursing’s operations until 2016, legislation to reinstate the board is expected to be passed in early January.
In the meantime, the BRN will operate as usual until Dec. 31, when an agreement between the board and the California Department of Consumer Affairs will allow the BRN to continue, said Melissa Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the State and Consumer Affairs Services Agency.
On Oct. 9, Brown vetoed SB 538 — routine legislation that would have extended the BRN’s authority for the next four years, citing concerns with pension provisions contained in the bill.
The bill referred to some investigators working for the board as “sworn investigators” said Louise Bailey, RN, BSN, MEd, executive officer for the BRN, which oversees about 400,000 RNs and 148 pre-licensure nursing programs. This would have entitled those investigators to larger pensions, she said.
“This was not on our radar at all,” Bailey said. “Had I known, I would have asked them to take the language out.”
In his veto message, Brown stated the clause to expand pension benefits to certain board investigators “makes no sense fiscally and flies in the face of much needed pension reform.”
He also said it was not acceptable to risk disrupting the board’s crucial consumer protection role by allowing such provisions in a routine sunset extension bill.
“The board has existed for 106 years without these enhanced benefits and should continue to do so,” Brown said.
Bailey said the BRN had no immediate plans to hire any sworn investigators, but wanted to at least have the provision in place. When working on cases, sworn investigators have access to information that non-sworn investigators might not be privy to, Bailey said. Having some sworn investigators would help to speed up the process, she said.
“The board wasn’t adamant that we had to have sworn investigators, but at least it gave us options down the road,” Bailey said. “We could have dealt with that at a later date and time. The priority was getting our extension so we wouldn’t sunset.”
For about three years, the board has been working to reduce the amount of time between a complaint being made and the case being resolved, Bailey said.
Since 2009, cases have gone from being completed in about three years to two years, she said. The board’s goal is to have cases finished in about 12 to 18 months.
“We’ve had furloughs, and we’ve had hiring freezes,” Bailey said. “Yet, still, we have made improvements.”
Patricia McFarland, RN, MS, FAAN, CEO of the Association of California Nurse Leaders and the California Nursing Students’ Association, attended an Oct. 13 BRN meeting to discuss Brown’s veto.
She said the governor made it clear in his message that the veto was not about the board itself, but the pension issue. Brown praised the BRN for its work to protect consumers and regulate the professional practice of California nurses.
“Our current board is excellent,” McFarland said. “That group has done a fantastic job. We need to continue the work that they have been doing.”
Hope on the horizon
Brown wants a seamless process for reinstating the BRN, ensuring no one will have issues with employment or licensing, Figueroa said.
“The governor has made it a priority that he wants the board to be reinstated,” she said. “To the outside public, it shouldn’t even be noticed.”
Still, Bailey said she was surprised when the original bill was vetoed.
“It was not anticipated,” Bailey said. “It was anticipated the bill would be signed by the governor. Naturally, we were shocked.”