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AGLO 1975 No. 42 - April 22, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COLLEGES ‑- UNIVERSITIES ‑- COMMUNITY COLLEGES ‑- CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LEGISLATION RESTRICTING AUTHORITY OF GOVERNING BODY

House Bill No. 1145, which proposes to restrict the authority of the governing bodies of the several state colleges, universities and community colleges to expend revenues derived from service and activities fees, would not be violative of Article XIII, § 1 of the state constitution.

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                                                                   April 22, 1975

Honorable Peggy Joan Maxie
State Representative, 37th District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 42

Dear Representative Maxie:

            By letter dated April 15, 1975, you have requested our opinion on the constitutionality of House Bill No. 1145, which, in the form you have submitted to us, would do the following two things:

            (1) Provide that no moneys derived from services and activities fees imposed by a state college or university may be expended by the board of trustees or regents of the institution involved without first being approved by the "recognized student association" of the particular institution; and

            (2) Similarly restrict the ability of the board of trustees or regents of the institution involved to reduce the amount of such fees below their March 1, 1975, level without the approval of the recognized student association at the particular institution.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In an opinion dated July 26, 1971, to the Board of Trustees of Seattle Community College [[an Informal Opinion, AIR-71655]], copy enclosed, we considered a number of questions relative to the permissible uses of the "services and activities fees" which the legislature first authorized to be imposed by our state colleges and universities (including community colleges) by its passage of chapter 279, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess.  Among these questions was the following:

            "Where does the legal authority for the allocation of the 'services and activities fees' reside, and what are the legal guidelines for the exercise of that authority?"

            After reviewing the pertinent provisions of the law we responded to this question by saying, at p. 9 of the opinion:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "Section 5 of the subject act, amending RCW 28B.15.100, expressly delegates to the various governing boards of regents or trustees the authority to charge and collect general tuition fees, operating fees and services and activities fees.  Under §§ 6, 7, 9 and 10, these boards have the sole authority for setting the amount of the services and activities fees.  In so far as the use of these fees is concerned, § 3, supra, provides that it is the board of regents or trustees which possesses the authority to allocate the funds generated by these fees for the purposes stated in that section; i.e., funding student activities and programs."

            House Bill No. 1145 is an apparent attempt to alter this result to the extent indicated in our description of it, above.  The basic issue raised, as we view it, involves so much of Article XIII, § 1 of our state constitution as provides for the establishment of educational institutions and for their governments by boards of regents or trustees appointed by the governor.1/

             We do not, however, believe that this constitutional provision precludes the legislature from imposing limitations upon the powers granted by it to such institutional governing bodies.  In the instant case, the initial power to require students attending a state college or university to pay what is referred to as a "services and activities fee" was granted to the respective boards of trustees and regents by the legislature.  See, RCW 28B.15.100, codifying § 5, chapter 279, supra.  All that House Bill No. 1145 would do, as we read it, is impose certain restrictions  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] upon that previously granted authority.

            We do not believe that this bill, if enacted in its present form, would be violative of Article XIII, § 1 of our constitution or, for that matter, any other constitutional provision.

            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/" Educational, reformatory and penal institutions; those for the benefit of blind, deaf, dumb, or otherwise defective youth; for the insane or idiotic; and such other institutions as the public good may require, shall be fostered and supported by the state, subject to such regulations as may be provided by law.   The regents, trustees, or commissioners of all such institutions existing at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, and of such as shall thereafter be established by law, shall be appointed by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the senate; and upon all nominations made by the governor, the question shall be taken by ayes and noes, and entered upon the journal."

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