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AGLO 1980 No. 14 - March 20, 1980
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- SECRETARY OF STATE ‑- STATISTICS ‑- COLLECTION AND COMPILATION OF STATISTICAL INFORMATION BY SECRETARY OF STATE

(1) It is no longer a function of the secretary of state's office to collect, sort, or systematize statistics relating to agriculture, immigration, labor, manufacturing, mining and other related subjects in order to prepare and publish either a biennial statistical report to the legislature or a "comprehensive report" aimed, generally, at attracting tourists or business activities to the state; however, the secretary of state, as ex officio commissioner of statistics, may continue to seek and collect such statistics for whatever other legitimate public purposes, in unpublished form, they serve and, so long as he does not do so for the purpose of publication at state expense, he may also prepare tables, with narrative abstracts, of such statistics to the extent that the preparation of such tables and narrative abstracts is reasonably necessary in order to effectuate the legitimate public purpose for which the statistics have been collected.

(2) If, however, the secretary of state decides to do any of the foregoing, he must do so in a manner which will not result in an expenditure of more than $3,000 in any one year, including the salary (of not more than $1,200) of the deputy commissioner of statistics, if any.

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

                                                                  March 20, 1980

Honorable Bruce Chapman
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1980 No. 14

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on the following questions:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(1) Pursuant to RCW 43.07.050, 43.07.090, 43.07.100, and 43.07.110, may the Secretary of State's office continue to (a) collect statistics related to agriculture, immigration, labor, manufacturing, mining, and other related subjects, and (b) prepare tables, with narrative abstracts, of such statistics separated according to subject?

            "(2) In addition, may such statistics and other summaries be made available to the public and official agencies, even though not published by the Secretary of State?"

            We answer as set forth below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Prior to June 9, 1977, the effective date of chapter 75, Laws of 1977, RCW 43.07.050 through 43.07.110 read as follows:

            RCW 43.07.050:

            "The secretary of state shall be ex officio commissioner of statistics.  He shall establish within his office, and under his immediate supervision, a bureau to be known as the bureau of statistics, agriculture and immigration."

            RCW 43.07.060:

            "The commissioner shall collect, assort, systematize and present in biennial reports to the legislature, statistical details classified as follows:

            "(1) Agriculture;

            "(2) Immigration;

            "(3) Mechanical and manufacturing industries;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(4) Mining;

            "(5) Transportation on land and water;

            "(6) The amount of cash capital invested in lands, buildings, machinery, materials, and means of production generally."

            RCW 43.07.070:

            "All state officers and the assessors of the various counties of the state shall furnish, upon the written request of the commissioner, all the information possible and necessary to assist in carrying out the purposes of the bureau.

            "All printing required by the bureau in the discharge of its duty shall be performed by the state printer at public expense, and at least three thousand copies of the printed biennial report shall be furnished the commissioner for free distribution to the public."

            RCW 43.07.080:

            "The commissioner of statistics shall prepare for publication, from the reports of the county assessors, chambers of commerce, boards of trade and other authentic sources, a comprehensive report, setting forth the geography, topography, climate, natural and artificial resources of Washington, its inland waters and adjacent seas, a knowledge of which would tend to invite industrious, enterprising, intelligent people to remove hither.  It shall be the duty at all times of the bureau to promptly answer all proper inquiries relative to the state of Washington received by mail or otherwise from intending immigrants."

            RCW 43.07.090:

            "The commissioner shall have the power to send for persons and papers whenever in his opinion it is necessary, and he may examine  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] witnesses under oath, being hereby qualified to administer the same in the performance of his duty, and the testimony so taken must be filed and preserved in his office.  He shall have free access to all places and works of labor, and any principal, owner, operator, manager, or lessee of any mine, factory, workshop, warehouse, manufacturing or mercantile establishment, or any agent or employee of any such principal, owner, operator, manager, or lessee, who shall refuse to the commissioner or his duly authorized representative admission therein, or who shall, when requested by him, wilfully neglect or refuse to furnish him any statistics or information pertaining to his lawful duties which may be in the possession or under the control of said principal, owner, operator, lessee, manager, or agent thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than two hundred dollars."

            RCW 43.07.100:

            "No use shall be made in the report of the bureau of the names of individuals, firms, or corporations supplying the information called for by these sections, such information being deemed confidential and not for the purpose of disclosing any person's affairs; and any agent or employee of said bureau violating this provision shall upon conviction thereof be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed six months.

            RCW 43.07.110:

            "The commissioner shall appoint a deputy commissioner, who shall act in his absence, and the deputy shall receive the sum of twelve hundred dollars per annum to be paid by the state treasurer in the same manner as other state officers are paid; the sum allowed for deputy and other incidental expenses of the bureau shall not exceed the sum of three thousand dollars any one year.  The commissioner shall have authority to  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] employ one person to act as immigration agent, which agent shall reside in such city as said commissioner may designate, and he shall be provided with such literature and incidental accessories as in his judgment may be necessary."

            By subsections (11), (12) and (13) of § 96 of chapter 75, supra, however, the legislature repealed RCW 43.07.060, RCW 43.07.070 and RCW 43.07.080.  In addition, by the same act, the legislature amended or repealed more than 100 other statutes relating to state government reports and publications.  But in so doing, it left RCW 43.07.050, 43.07.090, 43.07.100 and 43.07.110,supra, intact.

            Question (1):

            This question involves the legal significance of the foregoing legislative action with respect to the authority of your office to (in your words),

            ". . . (a) collect statistics related to agriculture, immigration, labor, manufacturing, mining, and other related subjects, and (b) prepare tables, with narrative abstracts, of such statistics separated according to subject."

            With the repeal of RCW 43.07.060, supra, it seems clear that the secretary of state is no longerrequired to collect, assort or systematize such statistics.  Nor, in view of the repeal of RCW 43.07.070 and 43.07.080, supra, is he, as ex officio commissioner of statistics, any longer required to prepare and publish (presumably, on the basis of such statistics),

            ". . . a comprehensive report, setting forth the geography, topography, climate, natural and artificial resources of Washington, its inland waters and adjacent seas, a knowledge of which would tend to invite industrious, enterprising, intelligent people to remove hither. . . ."

            Instead, we note that the function of preparing and publishing those kinds of reports‑-having that same general purpose‑-is now vested in the State Department of Commerce  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] and Economic Development pursuant to RCW 43.31.050 and 43.31.060 which codify §§ 5 and 6, respectively, of chapter 215, Laws of 1957.  Moreover, the 1977 legislature must be presumed to have been aware of those statutes when it repealed RCW 43.07.060, 43.07.070 and 43.07.080, supra.  Accord,Leonard v. Bothell, 87 Wn.2d 847, 853, 557 P.2d 1306 (1976).  Therefore, it seems reasonable to speculate that at least one reason for their repeal was to eliminate a duplication of functions.  Such an explanation would also generally appear to coincide with the remainder of chapter 77, Laws of 1977,supra, which, overall, seems to have been aimed at revising and consolidating reporting requirements and procedures for all state government agencies and officials and, thereby, doing away with duplicative, redundant or unnecessary reports.

            And yet, the legislature nevertheless retained RCW 43.07.050, 43.07.090, 43.07.100 and 43.07.110, supra.  Thus, the secretary of state remains "ex officio commissioner of statistics" and there continues to exist, within his office, ". . . a bureau to be known as the bureau of statistics, agriculture and immigration."  RCW 43.07.050.  Likewise, as the commissioner of statistics, the secretary of state continues to have the investigative powers spelled out in RCW 43.07.090 in connection with the collection of statistical information.  In addition, RCW 43.07.110 continues to speak (albeit in a negative sense) of the use to be made of names of individuals, firms or corporations supplying information ". . . in the report of the bureau . . ." even though no such report is any longer provided for by law.  And finally, as the commissioner of statistics, the secretary of state is still authorized to appoint a deputy commissioner‑-if he can find one willing to serve for the somewhat less than lucrative salary ". . . of twelve hundred dollars per annum . . ." still specified in that statute.

            All of this should be given some meaning and effect if at all possible for, in addition to the above‑noted presumption of legislative awareness of prior laws, it is also to be presumed that the legislature does not deliberately engage in unnecessary or meaningless acts.  Knowles v. Holly, 82 Wn.2d 694, 513 P.2d 18 (1973).  Therefore, both in view of what the 1977 legislature did in repealing RCW 43.07.070, 43.07.080 and 43.07.090,supra, and what it did not do (not repeal RCW 43.07.050, 43.07.090, 43.07.100 and 43.07.110, supra) we here come to the following conclusions in response to your first question:

            (1) It is no longer a function of the secretary of state's office to collect, sort, or systematize statistics related to agriculture, immigration, labor, manufacturing,  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] mining, and other related subjects in order to prepare and publish either a biennial statistical report to the legislature or a "comprehensive report" aimed, generally, at attracting tourists or business activities to the state; instead, the essence of that function is now vested in the State Department of Commerce and Economic Development;

            (2) As ex officio commissioner of statistics, however, the secretary of state may continue to seek and collect such statistics for whatever other legitimate public purposes, in unpublished form, they may serve;

            (3) So long as he does not do so for the purpose of publication at state expense, the secretary of state may also ". . . prepare tables, with narrative abstracts, of such statistics separated according to subject . . ." if, and to the extent, that the preparation of such tables and narrative abstracts is reasonably necessary in order to effectuate the legitimate public purpose for which the statistics have been collected;

            (4) If, however, the secretary of state decides to do any of the foregoing, he must do so in a manner which will not result in an expenditure of more than $3,000 in any one year, including the salary (of not more than $1,200) of the deputy commissioner, if any.  Accord,State ex rel. State Board of Medical Examiners v. Clausen, 84 Wash. 279, 146 Pac. 630 (1915) wherein the Court held, at page 282:

            ". . .  But where a person or board is charged by law with a specific duty, and the means for its performance are appointed by law, there is no room for implied powers, and the means appointed must be followed, however inadequate may be the result. . . ."

            Question (2):

            Your second question assumes the foregoing answer to question (1) and asks:

            "In addition, may such statistics and other summaries be made available to the public and official agencies, even though not published by the Secretary of State?"

            In order to answer this question, we need only turn to the several sections of the state public disclosure law relating to public records.  See, RCW 42.17.250‑-42.17.330.  Clearly,  [[Orig. Op. Page 8]] any statistical tables and/or related narrative abstracts prepared by the secretary of state, as ex officio commissioner of statistics, would constitute "public records" within the meaning of that law.  See, RCW 42.17.010(26).  Therefore, such compilations would necessarily be open to public inspection and copying except to the extent that (a) they contain lists of individuals and access was being sought for some commercial purpose,1/ or (b) a particular compilation or related narrative includes the kinds of things which are exempt from public inspection under RCW 42.17.310.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/RCW 42.17.260(5) and AGO 1975 No. 15.

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