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AGO 1953 No. 104 - July 27, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

INTERIM COMMITTEES ‑- LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ‑- TRANSFER OF FUNDS TO ANOTHER COMMITTEE --LEGISLATIVE INTERIM COMMITTEES ‑- FUNDS AVAILABLE

Funds appropriated for the expenses of the legislative council may be made available to the interim committee on industrial insurance.  The Governor may make available money from his fund for investigations and emergency purposes to the interim committee on industrial insurance.

The Governor may not make available money from the emergency fund for salaries, wages and expenses of state departments, offices, and institutions, to such committee.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 27, 1953

Honorable John K. Yearout
State Representative, 21st District
600 West Third
Aberdeen, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 104

Dear Sir:

            Your letter of July 6, 1953, requests our opinion upon the legality of the interim committee on industrial insurance using funds for its purposes secured from

            (1) the legislative council, or

            (2) the Governor's budget.

            Our conclusion is that funds from the first source may be legally expended by the interim committee on industrial insurance.  The Governor may make available money from his fund for investigations and emergency purposes, but not from the emergency fund for salaries, wages and expenses of state departments, offices and institutions.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The question regarding funds secured from the legislative council is identical in principle to question No. 2 in AGO 53-55 No. 7 [[to Mort Frayn, Speaker of House on April 10, 1953]], a copy of which is enclosed.  The question there asked was whether or not the legislative budget committee could legally expend funds secured from the legislative council.  Our answer was "yes."  The same reasoning and the same answer is applicable to your first question.

            Your second question referring to the "Governor's budget" apparently refers to either of the Governor's two emergency funds appropriated by chapter 288, Laws of 1953.  One of those funds is the second item appropriated by that chapter, in the amount of $16,000 appearing on p. 773 of the temporary session Laws of 1953.  That item is for

            "Investigation and emergency purposes, to be distributed on vouchers approved by the Governor."

            It is difficult to conceive any language broader in scope than "investigation and emergency purposes."  Nothing in that language indicates a legislative intent to limit in any way the Governor's powers to authorize investigations or to declare emergencies.  No doubt he could, in his discretion, expend a part or all of this fund upon an investigation carried out by a legislative committee.  Likewise, he could expend this fund to meet any condition he may deem to be emergent.  It is equally apparent that he is not obligated in any way to authorize the use of this fund for any purpose.  In our opinion, the Governor could, in the exercise of his discretion, authorize the use of this fund by any legally existing legislative interim committee.

            The second fund is a two million dollar item appearing on p. 798-799 of the temporary session Laws of 1953, appropriated to the Governor.

            "To be allocated to various state departments, offices and institutions for salaries, wages, operations, * * * Provided, That this appropriation shall become available only upon filing with the Secretary of State, from time to time, allotments to said departments, offices and institutions, * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Obviously the Governor has authority to allocate this fund to any of the "state departments, offices and institutions, * * *" which he may determine to be in need of the funds.  The only prerequisite is that the agency to which the funds are allocated must qualify under one of the three classifications mentioned.

            The word "department" has two distinct meanings with respect to governmental operations.  The constitutional departments are the three grand divisions of government known as the executive, legislative, and judicial departments.  In the other sense, the term means one of the divisions of the executive branch of government created by law; such as the license department, department of public lands, etc.  It is apparently in the latter sense that the term is used here, since the money is put under the control of the chief officer of the executive branch of the government.  The interim committee is a division of the legislative, rather than the executive branch of the government.  The committee in question is not a department in the sense in which that term is here used.

            An institution is a society or organization created by law or public authority to carry out a charitable or educational purpose; and sometimes the term is used to relate to the buildings of those organizations.  In addition, in this state, we have broadened the definition by statute to include all institutions under the control of the department of public institutions, except capitol buildings.  (RCW 72.04.010).  The committee here referred to is certainly not an institution.

            Whether or not it is an "office" depends upon whether it possesses those five essential elements detailed in AGO 53-55 No. 16 (April 23, 1953) [[ to Arthur B. Langlie, Governor]], citing State ex rel. Hamblen v. Yelle, 29 Wn. (2d) 68, 76;State ex rel. McIntosh v. Hutchinson, 187 Wash. 61, 59 P. (2d) 1117; andState ex rel. Barney v. Hawkins, 79 Mont. 506, 257 Pac. 411, 53 A.L.R. 583.

            It is unnecessary to unduly extend this opinion by reanalyzing those criteria.  The committee obviously has no authority to exercise any of the sovereign powers of government.  It can neither pass nor execute laws.  Certainly it could not interpret laws.  Furthermore, the committee is subject to the control of a superior body, i.e., the legislature itself.  In our opinion, such a committee does not possess the essential elements necessary to constitute it a public office.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Since the committee is neither a department, office, nor institution, we conclude that the Governor could not legally allocate any portion of his $2,000,000 emergency item for the expense of its operation.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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