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AGLO 1975 No. 77 - September 05, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

ELECTIONS ‑- INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM ‑- TIME FOR SUBMISSION OF INITIATIVES TO THE LEGISLATURE

Under RCW 29.79.020 an initiative to the legislature may only be filed with the secretary of state within ten months prior to the next regular session of the legislature even though such initiative measures may now be voted upon at the annual state general election held pursuant to RCW 29.13.010 in November of each year.

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                                                               September 5, 1975

Honorable Peter von Reichbauer
State Senator
429 Public Lands Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 77

Dear Sir:

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

            In view of § 1, chapter 4, Laws of 1973, which amended RCW 29.13.010 to allowannual state general elections for ". . . constitutional amendments, . . . initiative measures and referendum measures proposed by the electorate . . . and any other matter provided by the legislature for submission to the electorate: . . .", are initiatives to the legislature still permitted by RCW 29.79.020 to be filed with the secretary of state only ". . . within ten months prior to the next regular session of the legislature at which they are to be submitted . . ."?

            We answer this question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            As you know, Article II, § 1 (Amendment 7) of our state constitution provides for the passage of laws by the initiative process in two separate ways.  First, this constitutional amendment (which was adopted in 1912) makes it possible for the people, by themselves, to enact a law by the initiative process; and then secondly, it includes a procedure whereby a proposed law may be submitted by the people to the legislature for its consideration and passage.  If the legislature enacts the measure in the form submitted to it, the resulting law will be subject to a possible referendum at the next regular election.  Conversely, if the legislature rejects the initiative or takes no action upon it,

            ". . . the secretary of state [shall submit it] to the people for approval or rejection at the next ensuing regular general election. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   RCW 29.79.020, which implements the second of these initiative procedures, states that:

            "Initiative measures proposed to be submitted to the legislature must be filed with the secretary of state within ten months prior to the nextregular session of the legislature at which they are to be submitted and the petitions therefor must be filed with the secretary of state not less than ten days before suchregular session of the legislature."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            That statute, as you have noted, was originally enacted by chapter 138, Laws of 1913, shortly after the adoption of Amendment 7 to the constitution at the 1912 state election.  And, as you know, "regular" sessions of our state legislature occur only once every two years in accordance with Article II, § 12 of the constitution ‑ although special sessions may be convened by the governor at other times.  This brings us, then, to RCW 29.13.010, the other statute cited in your opinion request.

            Although that statute (in conjunction with certain others) formerly called for the conduct of state general elections only once every two years ‑ in November of eacheven numbered year ‑ it was recently amended by § 1, chapter 4, Laws of 1973 to provide for the holding of annual general elections, in November of each year, for the consideration (among other things) of

            ". . . constitutional amendments, . . . initiative measures and referendum measures proposed by the electorate . . . and any other matter provided by the legislature for submission to the electorate: . . ."

            Thus, an initiative to the legislature which is either rejected or not acted upon by that body may now be submitted to the voters at an election to be held the following November.  For example, an initiative rejected by the 1973 legislature could have been voted upon at the November, 1973, general election rather than having to wait until an election to be held in the next even numbered year (1974) as before.

            In answer to your question, however, this potential  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] acceleration of the election process with respect to such initiative measures appears to us to bear no legal relationship to the initial submission process provided for in RCW 29.79.020.  That statute, in our judgment, still means exactly what it says; namely (repeated for ease of reference) that

            "Initiative measures proposed to be submitted to the legislature must be filed with the secretary of state within ten months prior to the nextregular session of the legislature at which they are to be submitted and the petitions therefor must be filed with the secretary of state not less than ten days before suchregular session of the legislature."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            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

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