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AGO 1950 No. 336 - September 25, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

VETERANS' PREFERENCE UNDER MERIT SYSTEM

A ruling of the State Merit Board giving preference to veterans in merit examinations is valid.

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                                                              September 25, 1950

Representative Eva Anderson
Box 156
Chelan, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 336

Dear Madam:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of September 12, 1950, in which you inquire as to whether section 14 of the State of Washington Merit System Rules of Personnel Administration which gives preference to veterans in merit system examinations is valid.

            It is our conclusion that the rule of the State Personnel Board giving preference to veterans is a valid rule.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The rule about which you inquire is section 14, Article V, of the Merit System Rules of Personnel Administration issued by the State Personnel Board.  It reads as follows:

            "In all competitive examinations to determine the qualifications of applicants for entrance to the service, the State Personnel Board shall give a preference status to all veterans of all wars in which  Orig. Op. Page 2 the United States of America has been engaged by adding ten per cent (10%), based upon a possible rating of 100 points as perfect, to the final earned test rating provided that he has received a minimum passing grade in such examination.  The term 'veteran' shall include every person who has served in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States and, upon termination of the service, has received an honorable discharge, or a physical discharge with an honorable record, or has been relieved of active service under honorable circumstances."

            Chapter 189, Laws of 1945 as last amended by chapter 134, Laws of 1949 (§ 9963-5 Rem. Supp. 1949) provides:

            "In all competitive examinations, unless otherwise provided herein, to determine the qualifications of applicants for public offices, positions or employment, the State of Washington, and all of its political subdivisions and all municipal corporations, shall give a preference status to all veterans, as herein defined, of all wars in which the United States of America has been, now is or may hereafter be engaged, by adding to the mark, grade or rating, based upon a possible rating of one hundred (100) points as perfect, ten per cent (10%) to his final earned test rating:  Provided, That he has received a minimum passing grade in such examination.  The term 'veteran' as herein used, shall include every person who has served, now is serving or may hereafter serve in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States during any such war and, upon termination of the service, has received an honorable discharge, or a physical discharge with an honorable record, or has been relieved of active services under honorable circumstances.  * * *"

             Orig. Op. Page 3

            It will be noted that the regulation of the State Merit Board is merely carrying out the provisions of this statute.  Statutes of this kind are common in most of the states and have been sustained as to constitutionality by the courts many times.  See 56 Am.Jur. 90, § 11; 161 A.L.R. 494.

            In the case ofState ex rel. Raines v. Seattle, 134 Wash. 360, 235 Pac. 968, our Supreme Court specifically upheld the validity of a municipal charter provision giving veterans a preference in examinations for civil service positions.  The ruling which you refer to is one made by the State Merit Board but it merely carries out the policy adopted by the legislature.  This policy is constitutional and valid.  Under the circumstances the ruling could be changed only by act of the state legislature.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LYLE L. IVERSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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