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AGO 1951 No. 132 - September 19, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


The Legislative Auditor is by statute the Secretary of the Legislative Budget Committee.

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                                                              September 19, 1951

Honorable Ole H. Olson
Legislative Budget Committee
Post Office Box 222
Pasco, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 132

Dear Mr. Olson:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of September 14, 1951, in which you ask advice as to whether the Legislative Budget Committee set up by chapter 43 of the Laws of 1951 may elect a Secretary from among its members or should employ the Legislative Auditor as Secretary.

            Our conclusion is that the Legislative Auditor should be the Secretary of the Committee.


            Chapter 43 of the Laws of 1951 in section 2 provides:

            "The committee shall have the power and duty to appoint its own chairman, vice‑chairman, and other officers; to make rules and regulations for orderly procedure; to perform, either through the legislative budget committee or through the legislative council or through subcommittees of the legislative budget committee, all duties and functions relating to the study of expenditures by the state government, its officers, boards, committees, commissions, institutions, and other state agencies."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We understand from your letter that prior to the employment of a Legislative Auditor a member of the Committee was designated as Secretary.  Section 2 makes no express mention of a Secretary for the Committee and in the absence of a regulation in the statute, it is our opinion that the Committee was fully authorized to designate one of its members to that position so long as a Legislative Auditor had not been employed.

            Section 11 of the act provides in part:

            "The committee is hereby authorized and empowered to appoint an officer to be known as the legislative auditor, and to fix his compensation, who shall act as secretary of the committee and assist in its duties and shall compile information for the committee.  * * *"

            The section last quoted specifies that the Legislative Auditor shall be the Secretary of the Committee.  This is a specific provision in the statute prescribing who shall be Secretary.

            There is a principle of statutory construction that when one section of the statute treats specifically of a matter, that section prevails over another section which relates to that matter only incidentally or is less specific.  United States v. Jackson, 143 F. 783, 75 C.C.A. 41.  It is not, in our opinion, certain that there is a conflict between section 2 and section 11, but if the two should be regarded as in conflict, there is another principle of law that the later in position of two conflicting sections of a single statute shall prevail:

            "* * * where different parts or sections of the same statute are in conflict, the latest in order of position will prevail.  State ex rel. Tacoma R. & P. Co. v. Public Service Commission, 101 Wash. 601, 172 Pac. 890.  This rule, however, as is the case with many other rules of construction, is not inflexible, and, if the first of conflicting causes is clear and explicit, and the other, less so, the former, notwithstanding its position, will prevail over the latter.  Black on Interpretation of Laws (2d ed.), 327."  State ex rel. Olympia Credit Bureau v. Ayer, 9 Wn. (2d) 188, 114 P. (2d) 168.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In the present case section 11 would prevail over section 2 either under the principle that the latest in order of position will prevail or under the principle that the one most explicit in regard to a given point will prevail.

            It is noted that section 15 provides that the Secretary attest vouchers of members of the Committee.  Attestation merely means bearing witness.  This does not infer that the Secretary must exercise any of the discretionary powers of the Committee.  No inference may be drawn from the requirements of section 15 that it was intended that the Secretary must be a member of the Committee.

            It is, therefore, our opinion that the Legislative Auditor must be the Secretary of the Committee when he has been employed.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

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