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AGO 1953 No. 169 - November 16, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


With respect to the Legislative Council, Columbia Basin Commission, Highway Commission and Washington State Power Commission, the "per diem rates provided by law provision" contained in section 1, chapter 288, Laws of 1953, (the general appropriations act) is not affected by the limitations contained in chapter 259, Laws of 1953, but must be construed with reference to the enabling acts setting up such bodies.

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                                                               November 16, 1953

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 169

Attention:  !ttMr. F. D. Keister,

            Assistant State Auditor

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of October 20, 1953, in which you have requested our opinion on whether or not chapters 259 and 288, Laws of 1953, impose limitations on expenses for subsistence and lodging on members of the Columbia Basin Commission, Highway Commission, Power Commission and Legislative Council not provided for in the enabling statutes establishing such groups.

            In our opinion this question must be answered in the negative.


            Chapter 259, Laws of 1953, amended RCW 43.03.050 to read as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The heads of all state departments may prescribe per diem rates of allowance, not exceeding nine dollars in lieu of subsistence and lodging to elective and appointive officials and state employees while engaged on official business away from their designated posts of duty, but within the state of Washington or an adjoining state, and not exceeding twelve dollars per day while engaged on official business elsewhere."

            Section 1, chapter 288, Laws of 1953 (the general appropriations act) contains this provision:

            "* * *Provided further, That allowances made for subsistence and lodging for the elective or appointive officers and employees while away from their domicile on state business shall equal actual expenses incurred therefor or per diem rates as provided by law, but in no event shall actual expenses claimed exceed such per diem rates provided by law."

            Thus, our inquiry appears to turn on a determination of what per diem rates, if any, apply to the legislative council and three commissions listed above.  Previous opinions of this office have indicated that the enabling statutes setting up the legislative council and the Columbia Basin Commission provided for expenses of members of those bodies on an entirely different basis than was provided for expenses of state officers and employees generally by RCW 43.03.050 as derived from chapter 86, Laws of 1943.

            Chapter 281, Laws of 1953, is the enabling act setting up the Washington State Power Commission.  Section 2 of this act declares that the commission

            "* * * shall be a body politic and corporate, a political subdivision of the state of Washington exercising governmental and public powers, * * *"

            RCW 43.27.150 provides that the Highway Commission shall appoint the director of highways.  RCW 44.24.010 provides that the members of the Legislative Council shall be appointed by the president of the senate and speaker of the house, respectively.  RCW 43.49.010 divides the appointing power of the members of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the Columbia Basin Commission between the Governor and the directors of three named irrigation districts.  These various provisions indicate a legislative intention that these bodies are to be regarded as a distinctive species whose salaries and expenses require individual consideration.  It would be extremely difficult to state, if a contrary conclusion were reached, which department head is vested with authority to prescribe the maximum per diem allowable, in lieu of subsistence and lodging, for the members of these groups.

            It is our conclusion that with respect to the Legislative Council and the commissions listed above, that the "per diem rates provided by law" provision contained in chapter 288, Laws of 1953, is not affected by chapter 259, Laws of 1953, but must be construed with reference to the respective enabling acts setting up these bodies.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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