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AGLO 1975 No. 26 - March 12, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- GOVERNOR ‑- LEGISLATURE ‑- VETO ‑- TIME OF PASSAGE OF BILL OVERRIDDING GUBERNATORIAL VETO

When an act is vetoed by the governor under Article III, § 12 of the Washington constitution, and is returned with his objections to the house in which it originated during the same session as is provided for therein, the power of the legislature to override the veto is not dependent on that power being exercised during the same legislative session so as to preclude it from overridding the veto unless it does so before the end of the session.

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                                                                  March 12, 1975

Honorable Irving Newhouse
State Representative, 15th District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 26

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            When an act passed by the legislature is vetoed by the governor under Article III, § 12 of the Washington constitution, and is returned with his objections to the house in which it originated as is provided for therein, is the power of the legislature to override the veto dependent upon that power being exercised during the same legislative session so as to preclude it from overriding the veto unless it does so before the end of the session?

            In our opinion, this question in answerable in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Insofar as is here material, Article III, § 12 of our state constitution reads as follows:

            "Every act which shall have passed the legislature shall be, before it becomes a law, presented to the governor.  If he approves, he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, which house shall enter the objections at large upon the journal and proceed to reconsider.  If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of the members present shall agree to pass the bill it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of the members present, it shall become a law; but in all such cases the vote of both houses shall be determined by the yeas and nays, and the names of the members voting for or against the bill shall be entered upon the journal of each house respectively.  If any bill shall not be  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] returned by the governor within five days, Sundays excepted, after it shall be presented to him, it shall become a law without his signature, unless the general adjournment shall prevent its return, in which case it shall become a law unless the governor, within twenty days next after the adjournment, Sundays excepted, shall file such bill with his objections thereto, in the office of secretary of state, who shall lay the same before the legislature at its next session in the like manner as if it had been returned by the governor. . . ."

            In essence, this provision grants two separate powers: First, it grants to the governor the power to veto any bill passed by the legislature;1/ and secondly it empowers the legislature to override any such veto and cause the act to become law over the governor's objections.  Significantly, however, the first of these two powers is subject to an express constitutional time limit while the second is not.

            In those instances in which the veto is not exercised until after adjournment of a particular session, the constitution expressly contemplates and provides for its passage over the veto at an ensuing session, even though the membership of the legislature could have changed to some, or even a considerable, extent in the meantime as the result of an intervening biennial legislative election.  Thus, there appears to be nothing particularly sacred about the identity or composition of the legislative session at which a veto override takes place, unlike the situation which we have previously held to exist with respect to the initial passage of a bill by the legislature.  See, AGOs 65-66 No. 10 [[to Robert M. Schaefer, Speaker of the House on March 3, 1965]]and No. 12 [[to Robert C. Bailey, State Senator on March 5, 1965]]; cf.,Citizens Council v. Bjork, 84 Wn.2d 891 (1975).

            In the absence of an express time limitation in the constitution with respect to the power of a legislative body to override an executive veto of a proposed law, our research has disclosed no decided cases in which it has been held, in this or any other jurisdiction, that the power of the legislature to override a veto is in any way dependent upon its being exercised during the same session as was in being when the bill was originally passed and/or the veto exercised ‑ or, for that matter, prior to any other particular deadline.  We are not, therefore, inclined to attempt to read any such  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] limitation into the provisions of our own state constitution by implication.  Had the framers of our constitution intended anything else they doubtless could have found appropriate words with which to express that intent; words comparable to the words of limitation which they inserted with respect to the veto power itself.  However, they simply did not do so.

            Accordingly, it is our best judgment that your question, as paraphrased at the outset of this opinion, is answerable in the negative.  As we view it, the legislature retains the power to override a gubernatorial veto indefinitely and does not lose that power by failing to exercise it during the session at which the bill was originally passed and/or the veto exercised.

            It is hoped 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/Except such bills as are referred directly to the voters under Article II, § 1 (Amendment 7) of the constitution.   See,State ex rel. Lofgren v. Kramer, 69 Wn.2d 219, 417 P.2d 837 (1966).

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