Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1951 No. 001 - April 03, 1951
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

TERMS OF OFFICE AND SALARY OF WASHINGTON PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONERS.

The terms of office of Washington Public Service Commissioners appointed pursuant to chapter 260, Laws of 1951, and the salaries pertinent thereto, shall commence on June 7, 1951, this being the effective date of the act.

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

                                                                    April 3, 1951

Washington Public Service Commission
Insurance Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 1

Attention:  !ttHonorable Jerome K. Kuykendall, Commissioner

Gentlemen:

            We have your request for an opinion on the following questions:

            1. On what date do the terms of commissioners appointed under authority of chapter 260, Laws of 1951 (Senate Bill No. 55), commence?

            2. If an incumbent commissioner whose present term expires April 1, 1951, is reappointed, or his successor is appointed, for a term commencing April 1, 1951, will that term expire June 7, 1951?

            3. On what date will the commissioners appointed pursuant to chapter 260, Laws of 1951, be paid at the rate therein specified?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            1. The terms of commissioners appointed under chapter 260, Laws of 1951, shall commence June 7, 1951.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. The reappointment of an incumbent commissioner, or the appointment of his successor, under chapter 260, Laws of 1951, prior to June 7, 1951, for a term purporting to commence April 1, 1951, would be of no effect.  If such reappointment or appointment be made pursuant to chapter 117, Laws of 1949, the term of such commissioner would expire June 7, 1951.

            3. The salary specified under chapter 260, Laws of 1951, shall begin June 7, 1951.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 260, Laws of 1951, amends section 1, chapter 117, Laws of 1949 (Public Service Commission Act), and provides in part as follows:

            "The members of the first commission to be appointed after taking effect of this act shall be appointed for terms beginning April 1, 1951, and expiring as follows:  One commissioner for the term expiring January 1, 1953; one commissioner for the term expiring January 1, 1955; one commissioner for the term expiring January 1, 1957.  Each of the commissioners shall hold office until his successor is appointed and qualified.  Upon the expiration of the terms of the three commissioners first to be appointed as herein provided, each succeeding commissioner shall be appointed and hold office for the term of six years.  One of such commissioners to be designated by the governor, shall, during the term of the appointing governor, be the chairman of the Commission."

            While the above cited language of the act would indicate a legislative intent that the terms of the commissioners to be appointed thereunder should commence April 1, 1951, the act did not include an emergency clause in its title or body.  The Washington constitution, article 2, section 31, and amendment 7, provides that no law except appropriations bills shall take effect until ninety days after the adjournment of the session at which it was enacted, unless the legislature shall direct otherwise in case of an emergency.

            This ninety-day provision is intended to implement and reserve the right of referring legislative enactments to the people, and the courts have been alert to safeguard that right.  InState v. Motomatsu, 139 Wash. 639, 247  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Pac. 1032, the court pointed out that until the constitutional period has expired, an act is still in the process of final enactment and does not become a law except by virtue of the failure of the people to seek a referendum thereon during such period.

            Where, as here, the act is not an appropriations bill and there has been no legislative direction that it is of an emergent nature, the constitutional provisions control and, accordingly, the terms of appointees thereunder cannot commence until the act becomes fully effective.  The language of the act evidences a legislative intent that the terms of the commissioners should commence as soon as legally possible.  Therefore, those terms commence June 7, 1951, the date on which chapter 260, Laws of 1951, becomes effective, and expire on the dates specified in the act.

            You state that the term of one commissioner appointed pursuant to chapter 117, Laws of 1949 (Rem. Supp. 1949, § 10964-115-1 et seq.), expires April 1, 1951.  It should be noted that under chapter 117, Laws of 1949, commissioners were appointed to terms commencing April 1, 1949, for a period of two and four years, "or until their successors are appointed and qualified."  For the reasons stated above, the reappointment of an incumbent commissioner, or appointment of his successor, under chapter 260, Laws of 1951, to be effective prior to June 7, 1951, would be of no force for the reason that chapter 260, Laws of 1951, would not yet be operative.  If such reappointment of an incumbent commissioner, or appointment of his successor, be made under chapter 117, Laws of 1949 (which act prevails until June 7, 1951), the term of such commissioner would expire June 7, 1951.  Likewise, by failure to make such reappointment or appointment, said incumbent would continue as a member until June 7, 1951.

            Consistent with the foregoing analysis, the salary authorized by chapter 260, Laws of 1951, may not be paid at the rate therein specified except from the time it becomes effective, being June 7, 1951.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LAWRENCE K. McDONELL
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo