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AGO 1953 No. 500 - March 23, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW ‑- SUBJECTS AND TITLES ‑- SINGLE SUBJECT ‑- SUFFICIENCY OF TITLE ‑- STATE DEPARTMENTS ‑- PRINCIPAL PLACE OF BUSINESS ‑- AT STATE CAPITOL

Senate Bill No. 244 providing for the construction of a state office building in Seattle, to be paid for with employees retirement system funds does not contravene Constitution, Article II, §§ 19 or 37, nor does it impliedly repeal section 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921.

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                                                                  March 23, 1953

His Excellency
Arthur B. Langlie
Governor of the State of Washington
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 500

 Dear Sir: 

            Receipt of your letter of March 18, 1953, is hereby acknowledged.  You request our opinion on the constitutionality of Senate Bill No. 244.

             It is our conclusion that the bill does not violate either Constitution, Article II, § 19, or Constitution, Article II, § 37.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             The two possible objections to which our attention has been directed are that the bill contravenes either Const. Article II, § 19; or Const. Article II, § 37; or both.

             Constitution, Article II, § 19, provides:

             "No bill shall embrace more than one subject and that shall be expressed in the title."

             The provision embodies a double mandate.  First, the subject matter of the legislation must be single.  Second, it must be expressed in the title.

             Section 1 of the bill in question authorizes the construction of an office building in Seattle and gives the state express authority to enter into long term leases for space therein.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "* * * as designated by the Director of Department of Public Institutions, in behalf of and for the use and housing of all or any part of the Department of Health and any other state department or agency housed or using office space in the city of Seattle."

             Does the quoted language bring into the bill an unrelated subject?

             Article II, § 19, does not impose any limitation upon the comprehensiveness of the subject.  To constitute plurality of subject, an act must embrace two or more dissimilar and discordant subjects that by no fair intendment can be considered as having any legitimate relation to each other.  Casco Co. v. P.U.D. No. 1 of Thurston Co., 37 Wn. (2d) 777, 50 Am.Jur., 178, Statutes, § 197.  A statute may include several definite objectives so long as those objectives are mentioned in the title.  Gruen v. Tax Commission, 35 Wn. (2d) 1.

             The constitutional provision was not intended to prevent the enactment of a complete law on a subject even though its provisions are numerous and varied.  The question always is, does the act contain unrelated matters?  McQueen v. Kittitas County, 115 Wash. 672.

             Reading the bill in its entirety, it is apparent that its subject is the construction of a building in Seattle and the leasing of office space therein.  There are a number of other matters included, such as authorizing the members of the state employees retirement system to purchase the property, limitations upon the length of the leases and the creation of a fund for receiving rental payments.  There is also specific mention of the housing therein of all or any part of the department of health, or any other agency housed or using office space in Seattle.

             The language last referred to is susceptible to two different interpretations.  It could be read as granting specific authority for all or any part of the Department of Public Health (and certain other agencies) to be located permanently in Seattle.  Secondly, it might also be construed as doing nothing more than authorizing the housing in the new building of certain agencies (including the Department of Health) which are now, in fact, using office space in Seattle. 

            The second interpretation suggested above is very closely related to the primary objective.  Under this interpretation, the language referring to the Health Department and other agencies does nothing more than define and point out to which agencies (among others) the office space may be leased.

             If the first suggested interpretation were adopted, the language of this bill would be repugnant to section 20, chapter 7, Laws of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] 1921, requiring certain departments, including the Department of Health, to maintain their principal office at the state capitol.  One thought is that the law establishing the location of the principal office of certain state departments is a subject separate and distinct from the subject of the present bill, as indicated in the title.

             It is true that the title gives no express notice that any department is being authorized to locate its entire operation in Seattle.  The subject, as expressed therein, merely authorizes the construction of the building and the negotiation of long-term leases for space therein.  The subject is broad, but it is doubtful that it is broad enough to include, as an incident to the primary objective, a matter distinctly set up as a separate subject by prior legislation.  The adoption of such a construction would, at the very least, add considerable weight to a contention that the bill contains more than a single subject.

            If this interpretation would possibly render the act unconstitutional, the following rule would be applicable:

             "Where a statute is open to two constructions, one of which will render it constitutional and the other, unconstitutional, the former construction, and not the latter, will be adopted."  State ex rel. Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Henneford, 3 Wn. (2d) 48. See alsoHuntamer v. Coe, 40 Wn. (2d) 767.

             It is our opinion that the quoted language is merely descriptive of the agencies which will be entitled to office space in the Seattle building.  It does not bring into the bill a new subject, but expresses matters closely related and incident to the primary objective.  The bill contains but a single subject.

             The next question is whether the subject matter of the bill is "expressed in the title."  Every matter covered in the bill is expressed in the title except the language pertaining to the health department and other state agencies.  This language is merely an elaboration of the preceding language authorizing the execution of long-term leases.  As indicated above, its purpose is to designate with particularity, some of the departments and agencies entitled to the benefit of such leases.

             The title reads, in part, as follows:

             "* * * allowing the state to negotiate long-term leases for space therein;"

             A title need not index the details of the act, or give a synopsis of the means by which the object of the statute is to be accomplished.  Gruen v. Tax Commission, supra.  We think that the portion of the title quoted above sufficiently covers the entire subject of leases, including the references to those agencies entitled to the benefit thereof.  It is our opinion that the title adequately expresses the subject of the bill.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We are asked to consider whether the bill contravenes Constitution, Article II § 37, which requires that an "* * * act revised or the section amended shall be set forth at full length."  Also, whether the title is defective for failure to mention a prior statute which may have been amended by the bill.  The answer to the second problem depends upon the first, for if the bill is amendatory, it would be unconstitutional under § 37.  If it makes no amendment, it would be improper to refer to the prior statute in the title of the bill.

             Section 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921, provides that each department created by that law shall have its principal office at the state capitol.  The pertinent language of Senate Bill No. 244 is quoted on pages 1 and 2 of this opinion.  Does Senate Bill No. 244 repeal or amend § 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921?  It is our opinion that it does not.

             The prior discussion indicates the construction which we believe should be placed upon the language of Senate Bill No. 244 referred to above.  By giving it such a construction, the apparent conflict between that language and § 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921, would be resolved and both would be given effect.  This would be in accord with the general rule of statutory construction that

             "* * * where there are provisions relating to the same subject matter embodied in different statutes, they should be harmonized so as to maintain the integrity of both whenever it is possible."  State ex rel. Shomaker v. Superior Court, 193 Wash. 465, 475.

             The final question raised is whether or not the bill would work an implied repeal of § 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921.  The case ofState ex rel. Reed v. Spanaway Water Dist., 38 Wn. (2d) 393, sets forth the rule applicable to implied repeals as follows:

             "The general rule of statutory interpretation respecting implied repeals, as previously stated, provides that, in the absence of specific repealing language, a prior act is not repealed by the enactment of a later act relating to the same matter.  Theexception to the general rule permits a repeal by implication if the later act:

             "1. Covers the entire subject matter of the earlier legislation;

             "2. Is complete within itself;

             "3. Is evidently intended to supersede the prior legislation on the subject; or

             "4. If the two acts are so clearly inconsistent with and repugnant to each other that they cannot by fair and reasonable construction be reconciled and both be given effect."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            In the case of Buell v. McGee, 9 Wn. (2d) 84, 90, the following language was used:

          "A conceded general rule of statutory construction is that, where there are provisions relating to the same subject matter embodied in different statutes, they should be harmonized so as to maintain the integrity of both whenever it is possible."

            The rules may be summarized as follows:

             1. Repeals by implication are not favored in the law.

             2. They will be indulged in only:

             (a) Where the new act covers the entire subject-matter of the earlier legislation, is complete within itself and was intended to supersede the prior legislation on the subject; or

             (b) Where the acts are so clearly inconsistent that they cannot be reconciled and both be given effect.

             Rule 2 (a) above is not applicable in this case since Senate Bill No. 244 is not a complete act on the same subject-matter as the 1921 act.  If the first construction mentioned earlier be adopted, an implied repeal would be affected under rule 2 (b).  If the second construction by adopted, there would be no implied repeal.

             Because of the policy against implied repeals except where necessary, and the rule that both acts should be given effect if possible, it is our opinion that the second construction must be adopted.  This result is even more strongly dictated by the possibility that a different construction might render the entire act unconstitutional either for duality of subject matter or because the title gives no indication that the scope of the bill is broad enough to authorize certain agencies to establish their principal office in Seattle.

             You are advised that, in our opinion, the bill does not impliedly repeal or supersede any portion of § 20, chapter 7, Laws of 1921.  It is also our opinion that Senate Bill No. 244 does not contravene either § 19 or § 37 of article II, Washington State Constitution.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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