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AGLO 1975 No. 4 - January 15, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- HIGHWAYS ‑- LICENSES ‑- ADDITIONAL GROSS WEIGHT PERMITS

Although additional gross weight permits may be purchased at any time during a calendar year under RCW 46.44.095, this statute, as amended by § 3, chapter 150, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., does not permit such permits to be purchased for single or multiple monthly periods not necessarily extending for the balance of the calendar year in which the permit is obtained.

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                                                                 January 15, 1975

Honorable Jim Matson
State Senator, 14th District
Route 2, Box 2311
Selah, Washington 98942                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 4

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have asked for our opinion with respect to the impact of § 3, chapter 150, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., upon the issuance of additional gross weight permits for trucks operating on the public highways of our state.  Specifically, you have asked whether this enactment, amending RCW 46.44.095, allows an additional gross weight permit to be purchased for single or multiple monthly periods not necessarily extending for the balance of the calendar year in which the permit is obtained.

            In our opinion, for the reasons set forth in our analysis below, the foregoing question must be answered in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 46.44.095 provides for the issuance of special permits covering the operation of trucks having an excess gross weight (i.e., a gross weight in excess of that permitted by RCW 46.44.040) upon the highways of our state.  The annual fee for such permits prior to the enactment of the 1973 amendment to which you have referred was sixty dollars per each two thousand pounds of such additional weight whereas permits may now be issued in thousand pound increments at a fee of thirty dollars for each one thousand pounds.  However, both then and now the maximum fee for an additional gross weight permit is one hundred and twenty dollars.

            In addition the statute as amended now describes the foregoing permits as class A additional tonnage permits and goes on to authorize a second class of such permits, class B, again in thousand pound increments, to be issued under certain described circumstances upon the payment of thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents per year for each one thousand pounds of additional gross weight but with no maximum fee stipulated.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   Also, RCW 46.44.095 provides for the issuance of temporary additional tonnage permits.  Prior to its amendment, such permits could be issued for not less than five days nor more than ten days for a fee of one dollar per day.  Currently, by reason of § 3, chapter 150, supra, class A temporary permits can be issued for any period of not less than ten days for a fee of one dollar per day and class B temporary permits can be issued for not less than five days at two dollars per day.

            We now turn to the paragraph of the statute to which your letter makes specific reference.  Prior to its amendment in 1973, this paragraph read as follows:

            "The fee for such additional gross weight shall be payable for a twelve month period beginning and ending on January 1st of each calendar year.  The additional gross weight provided for herein can be purchased at any time and if purchased on or after April 1st of any year, the fee shall be seventy-five percent of the full annual fee and if purchased on or after July 1st the fee shall be fifty percent of the full annual fee and if purchased on or after October 1st the fee shall be twenty-five percent of the full annual fee."

            Now, however, it provides, instead, that:

            "The annual additional tonnage permits provided for in this section shall commence on the first of January of each year.  The permits may be purchased at any time, and if they are purchased for less than a full year, the fee shall be one twelfth of the full fee multiplied by the number of months, including any fraction thereof, covered by the permit. . . ."

            The principal effect of this part of the amendment, it will readily be seen, was to establish a system under which the fees payable for annual additional gross weight permits issued during a given calendar year are now to be reduced by one‑twelfth for each month of that year which has already expired rather than, as before, by a designated percentage for each quarter of the year which has already gone by.  According to your letter, however, it has been suggested by some seasonal haulers that this 1973 amendment should also be interpreted to allow the purchase of a permit for a single or multiple monthly period not necessarily extending over the balance of the calendar year remaining at the time of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] purchase.  The state highway department, on the other hand, has taken the position that, as before, the statute only allows the issuance of permits for the remainder of a given calendar year ‑ even though the fee is now to be computed, in effect, in a monthly rather than a quarterly basis.

            In our opinion, the interpretation which has been given to this statute by the state highway department is correct.  To begin with, the pertinent paragraph thereof which we have last quoted above expressly refers to the subject permits as "annual" additional tonnage permits.  In other words, as distinguished from the "temporary" permits also described above, the permits to which your question refers are basically designed to cover an entire calendar year commencing on the 1st of January of that year.

            The fact that the statute then goes on to authorize those permits to be purchased at any time during the year does not appear to us to change their status in this regard.  They are still "annual" permits, but because of the possibility that they may be purchased by a given truck operator after a portion of a calendar year has already gone by, the legislature has provided for a corresponding reduction in the fee which otherwise would have been required.  Specifically, it has provided that in such a case, the fee

            ". . . shall be one‑twelfth of the full fee multiplied by the number of months, including any fraction thereof, covered by the permit. . . ."

            The months covered by the permit, however, will in every case be all of the remaining months in the calendar year in which the purchase is made ‑ for the permit, even though purchased mid-year, is still an "annual" permit by the express terms of the statute itself.

            In so concluding we most certainly recognize that clearer and more lucid language could quite possibly have been used by the legislature to express this intent.  Compare, RCW 82.44.060, a statute relating to the motor vehicle excise tax which provides, in the event that a motor vehicle is licensed for the first time in this state after the last day of any month, that the tax shall then only be levied ". . . for the remaining months of the calendar year . . ."  Conceivably, a court might be persuaded on the basis of this differing wording to attribute a contrary intent to the legislature in the case of additional gross weight permits  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] issued under RCW 46.44.095, supra, as notwithstanding their express characterization therein as "annual" permits.  We, however, are of the opinion that the essential substance of these two statutes is the same.

            Another point to be noted is that, at least in the case of class A additional gross weight permits, if single or multiple month permits not covering the remainder of the calendar year of issue were allowed, the effect would be to make redundant and useless the temporary permit provisions of the statute ‑ as also modified by the legislature in § 3, chapter 150, supra.  This would be so because under the fee schedule, it would be less expensive under all circumstances except one, to purchase a one‑month class A additional tonnage permit rather than to purchase a ten-day temporary class A permit.  Only in the case of a one‑month class A additional tonnage permit for 4,000 lbs. would the fee of ten dollars be the same as would be the fee for a comparable class A ten-day temporary permit.  In all other cases, a one‑month class A permit would cost less than would such temporary permit.

            Likewise, in the case of class B five‑day temporary permits, the bulk of all such permits would be more expensive under most circumstances than would be a one‑month class B additional tonnage permit.  Only in the case of a one‑month class B additional tonnage permit for in excess of 3,000 lbs. would the one‑month permit fee exceed the temporary permit fee.  In all other cases, a one‑month class B permit would cost less than would such temporary permit.

            We do not believe it appropriate to attribute such an anomalous intent to the legislature.  Wilson v. Lund, 74 Wn.2d 945, 447 P.2d 718 (1968), and cases cited therein.  Accordingly, for this additional reason, as well, we must answer your question, as stated at the outset of this opinion, in the negative.

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

MICHAEL A. McKEAN
Assistant Attorney General

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