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AGO 1953 No. 54 - May 27, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

TRANSFER OF NON-CERTIFIED [[NONCERTIFIED]]EMPLOYEES OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM THE WASHINGTON STATE TEACHERS' RETIREMENT SYSTEM TO THE STATE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM

1. Only non-certified [[noncertified]]employees of "school districts" are entitled to transfer of membership.

2. The provisions of the general appropriation act for the Teachers' Retirement System is broad enough to cover the transfer of funds as contained in Chapter 202, Laws of 1953.

3. The State Employees' Retirement System cannot accept into membership any person who is not presently employed with an employer under coverage of the State Employees' Retirement System.

4. The service credited to a member so transferring should be credited in accordance with the law governing the State Employees' Retirement System.

5. The words "prior service" as used in Chapter 202, Laws of 1953, applies only to service prior to date of member's transfer.

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

                                                                   May 27, 1953

Mr. Leonard D. Burrus, Secretary-Manager
Washington State Teachers' Retirement System
P.O. Box 778
Olympia, Washington

Mr. Samuel P. Totten, Executive Secretary
State Employees' Retirement System
215 East Fifth Avenue
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 54

Gentlemen:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 13, 1953, wherein you request an opinion on the following questions which pertain to the provisions of  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] chapter 202, Laws of 1953:

            Question 1. Are any non-certificated [[noncertificated]]employees who are members of the Teachers' Retirement System, other than employees of school districts, entitled to transfer membership?

            Question 2. Since the Legislature failed to make the appropriations requested by the Teachers' Retirement System to cover these transfers, can any transfer of funds be made?

            Question 3. Is it mandatory for the State Employees' Retirement System to accept into membership persons transferring from membership in the State Teachers' Retirement System whose current employment is with an employer not admitted into coverage of the State Employees' Retirement System?

            Question 4. Should all or any portion of the service credited to a member in the Teachers' Retirement System upon his transfer to membership in the State Employees' Retirement System be credited in strict accordance with the law governing the latter system?

            Question 5. Do the words "prior service" as used in this act refer solely to service prior to the date of a member's transfer?

            It is our conclusion that questions 1 and 3 should be answered in the negative and questions 2, 4 and 5 should be answered in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 202, Laws of 1953, was enacted for the purpose of allowing certain non-certificated employees of school districts to transfer membership from the Washington State Teachers' Retirement System to the State Employees' Retirement System.  The questions involve a consideration of the status and operation of the two retirement systems.  In the consideration of the statute we must bear in mind the following rules of statutory construction:

            "If a provision is ambiguous and uncertain, the courts will consider the obvious purposes and objects sought to be attained and will construe the language used, insofar as it reasonably permits, to the end of giving it vitality and efficiency in the accomplishment of such purposes and objects."  3 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3rd ed.) Sec. 12.143, p. 503.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            McQuillin on page 505, further states "cognate statutory provisions should be construed together."

            "The legislative intent is of course to be determined from reading the act itself, construing the terms and provisions therein according to their ordinary meaning, and giving consideration to the purposes and objects sought to be accomplished by the legislative enactment."  State ex rel. State Retirement Board v. Yelle, 31 Wn. (2d) 87 at 111.

            As to question 1, we believe that the statute is explicit when it states "Any non-certificated employee of a school district * * *."  (Emphasis Supplied) "School District" has a common and well defined meaning and requires no construction.  Accordingly, the law is limited to non-certificated employees of school districts.

            Pertaining to question 2, we believe that the general appropriation statute for the Teachers' Retirement Fund, as contained in section 2, chapter 288, Laws of 1953, is broad enough to cover the transfer of funds provided for in chapter 202, Laws of 1953.  The general appropriation section provides "for the payment of Annuities, Awards and Refunds as provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied) The term "awards" is defined in 7 C.J.S. 1311 as follows:

            "In a general sense, a judgment, sentence, or final decision.  * * * In other particular connections, it has been said that the noun 'award,' as used in legal parlance, is synonymous with 'decision,' 'determination,' 'judgment,' and 'report;' * * *"

            The term "awards" as used in the general appropriation act, must mean a "determination" by the Teachers' Retirement System, otherwise the payment of all pensions, disability allowances and other benefits would be excluded therefrom.  The transfer of funds as provided by chapter 202, clearly calls for a determination by the system and, therefore, comes within the purview of the appropriation act.  State ex rel. Peel v. Clausen, 94 Wash. 166, at 173, states:  "* * * But it does not follow that an appropriation need be in any particular form or words."  This view is given further credence because the legislature made no separate appropriation for the transfer of funds in spite  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] of a specific request therefor by the Teachers' Retirement System.  Our supreme court took cognizance of this type of situation in State ex rel. Retirement Board v. Yelle, 31 Wn. (2d) 87, at 113, when it stated:

            "* * * but made no appropriation for any of the other funds created by the act, thus evidencing the deliberate intention of the legislature not to make any appropriation to those other funds because the legislative body was of the view that such funds were capable of disbursement without further legislative appropriation."

            We conclude that it was the intent of the legislature to provide for the appropriation for the transfer of funds as provided by chapter 202 by the general appropriation for the Teachers' Retirement System.

            In answering question 3, the same rules of construction must control.  The last part of chapter 202, which states the apparent intent of the legislature, namely, that it is the purpose of this law to allow transfer of membership between the retirement systems and thereby grant such an employee with all rights that he would have been entitled to had he been a member of the State Employees' Retirement System from the beginning of his employment or of his eligibility.  Therefore, the State Employees' Retirement System should not accept into membership any person who is not presently employed by an employer under coverage of the State Employees' Retirement System.  Any other interpretation would be both inequitable and detrimental to the system because it would result in an employee receiving a benefit where there is no employer contribution to pay for the same.

            The foregoing reasoning applied to question 3 applies equally to question 4.  The service credited to a member transferring between the systems should be credited in strict accordance with the law covering the State Employees' Retirement System.  Any other interpretation would result in transferees receiving benefits not presently accorded a member of the State Employees' Retirement System.  It was clearly the intent of the legislature to allow transferees only those privileges and rights as are accorded present members of the system.

            The reasoning as applied to questions 3 and 4 is germane to question 5.  If it should be interpreted that all service upon transferring is to be credited as prior service as defined in the State Employees' Retirement Act, it would give a great advantage to those so transferring because prior service as defined in the act is double in value to that of membership service.  Such was definitely  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] not the intent of the legislature.  Therefore, we must assume that they meant service prior to the date of the member's transfer.

            To reiterate briefly, we believe that in interpreting the provisions of chapter 202, Laws of 1953, one should keep in mind the legislative intent of the act, which was to allow certain specified employees to transfer from the Washington State Teachers' Retirement System to the State Employees' Retirement System with the end result that a person so transferring would be able to establish membership in the latter system in the same manner as if he had been a member of the State Employees' Retirement System from the beginning of his employment or from the date of his eligibility.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

ELROY F. WIEHL
Assistant Attorney General

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