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AGO 1953 No. 146 - October 07, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Chapter 56, Laws of 1953, which exempts income derived from motor vehicle funds invested in certain short-term government securities from payment into the reserve fund is unconstitutional.

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                                                                 October 7, 1953 

State Finance Committee
Legislation Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 146


Attention:  !ttMr. Ernest Minor,

            We have your letter of September 9, 1953, requesting an opinion as to the constitutionality of chapter 56, Laws of 1953.  In our opinion this statute conflicts with section 37, Article II, of the State Constitution, and should not be relied upon by the State Finance Committee in the investment of motor vehicle funds. 


            RCW 43.84.080 as derived from chapter 91, Laws of 1935, provides for the investment of state current funds, including the motor vehicle fund, and specifies the types of securities which may be purchased.  RCW 43.84.090 directs the disposition of income derived from such investment.  Chapter 56, Laws of 1953, provides as follows: 

            "Whenever monies of the motor vehicle fund shall be invested in bonds, notes, bills or certificates of the United States treasury payable at par upon demand,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] or within a term not greater than one year, it shall not be necessary to place any portion of the income therefrom in the reserve fund provided for in section 43.84.090, RCW." 

            Section 37, Article II, Washington Constitution, provides: 

            "No act shall ever be revised or amended by mere reference to its title, but the act revised or the section amended shall be set forth at full length." 

            This constitutional provision has been construed by our courts on numerous occasions with respect to a variety of amendatory statutes.  An examination of chapter 56, Laws of 1953, indicates that the legislature intended to carve out an exception to RCW 43.84.090 to permit the State Finance Committee to exempt income from motor vehicle funds invested in certain short-term government securities, from being deposited in the reserve fund.  It is evident that the 1953 act constitutes an amendment to or revision of RCW 43.84.090.  It is equally apparent that the section amended was not set forth at full length.  InState ex rel. Gebhardt v. Superior Court, 15 Wn. (2d) 673, at page 685, the court said: 

            "The section of our constitution above referred to was undoubtedly framed for the purpose of avoiding confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty in the statutory law through the existence of separate and disconnected legislative provisions, original and amendatory, scattered through different volumes or different portions of the same volume.  * * * The result desired by such a provision is to have in a section as amended a complete section, so that no further search will be required to determine the provisions of such section as amended." 

            Although recognizing the salutary purpose of the constitutional prohibition, our court has held that the provision must be reasonably interpreted so as not to unduly hamper the legislature.  Spokane Grain & Fuel Co. v. Lyttaker, 59 Wash. 76.  The court has refused to invoke this constitutional prohibition against several types of statutes.  The inhibition does not apply to an act complete in itself which repeals or amends the former law by implication.  In re Dietrick, 32 Wash. 471; Peterson's Estate, 182 Wash. 29.  Nor is it applicable  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] to supplemental acts not in any way modifying or altering the original act.  A statute is said to be complete in itself when it is not necessary to refer to any other statute to understand its scope and meaning.  Spokane Grain & Fuel Co. v. Lyttaker, supra. 

            An act adopting the provisions of another statute by reference is not treated as amendatory within the constitutional limitation.  InRoehl v. P.U.D. No. 1 of Chelan County, 143 Wash. Dec. 198 [[43 Wn.2d 214]], at page 206, the court said: 

            "* * * Reference statutes are those which refer to, and by reference adopt wholly or partially, preexisting statutes, or which refer to other statutes and make them applicable to an existing subject of legislation.  They are frequently used to avoid encumbering the statute books by unnecessary repetition, and they are recognized in this state and elsewhere as an approved method of legislation.  * * *" 

            An act abolishing a state board of examiners and transferring its duties to the director of licenses without in any way changing those duties was held to be a proper reference statute inState v. Rasmussen, 14 Wn. (2d) 397.  InRourke v. the Dept. of Labor and Industries, 41 Wn. (2d) 310, the court held that RCW 51.12.015 was repugnant to Article II, Section 37 of the State Constitution.  This act sought to extend the Workmen's Compensation Law to include maintenance and service employees of stores and buildings within the classification of extra-hazardous employment.  The court ruled that in order to comply with the constitution, the legislature should have amended RCW 51.12.010, in which extra-hazardous operations are listed, to include the new classification. 

            Chapter 56, Laws of 1953, does not fit into any of the recognized exceptions to the mandatory language of the constitution.  It is not complete in itself.  Standing alone it is virtually meaningless.  It is not a supplemental statute since it modifies the original act.  It does not repeal or amend by implication since it specifically refers to the prior act, nor can it be properly construed to be a reference statute since it does not adopt, wholly or partially, the pre‑existing statute.  It is our considered opinion that chapter 56, Laws of 1953, is in conflict with Article II, Section 37 of the State Constitution.  For this reason we  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] consider it advisable for you to continue to deposit into the reserve fund the usual twenty percent of the income received from such investments. 

Very truly yours, 

Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General

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