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AGLO 1978 No. 38 - December 07, 1978
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES ‑- STATE ‑- SALARIES ‑- PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS ‑- BLANKET DEDUCTIONS FOR THE PAYMENT OF INSURANCE PREMIUMS

A payroll deduction authorization submitted by a state officer or employee for the payment of accident and casualty insurance premiums would not be in compliance with RCW 41.04.230(7) if the authorization were indefinite as to the amount to be deducted or not capable of being determined with reference to a set schedule.

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                                                                December 7, 1978

Honorable Leonard Nord
Director
Department of Personnel
600 S. Franklin
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 38

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on the following question:

            "Would payroll deduction authorizations submitted by State employees for accident and casualty insurance premiums be in compliance with RCW 41.04.230(7) if they are indefinite as to the amount to be deducted, or not capable of being determined with reference to a set schedule?"

            We answer the foregoing question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 41.04.230 authorizes certain designated payroll deductions for state officers and employees.  Accord, AGO 1978 No. 28.  Insofar as is here material, the statute reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Any official of the state authorized to disburse funds in payment of salaries and wages of public officers or employees is authorized, upon written request of the officer or employee, to deduct each month from the salaries or wages of the officers or employees, the amount of money designated by the officer or employee for payment of the following:

            ". . .

            "(7) Accident and casualty premiums to a single insurer:  PROVIDED, That twenty-five or more officers or employees of a single agency, or a total of one hundred or more officers or employees of several agencies have authorized such a deduction for payment to that insurer.

            ". . ."

            Other subsections of the statute similarly authorize such payroll deductions for credit union payments, employee parking fees, the purchase of U.S. savings bonds, board, lodging or uniform charges and, under certain conditions, labor or employee organization dues.  In each case, however, as with deductions for insurance premium payments the written authorization executed by a given individual (i.e., state officer or employee) must, itself, designate the amount of money to be deducted.  Again, the critical language of the statute reads:

            ". . . the amount of money designated by the officer or employee. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)

            To the foregoing we would only add two further pertinent observations.  First, it is most certainly true that insurance premiums may fluctuate.  Accord, the following definition as contained in RCW 48.18.170:

            "'Premium' as used in this code means all sums charged, received, or deposited as consideration for an insurance contract or the continuance thereof.  Any assessment, or any 'membership,' 'policy,' 'survey,' 'inspection,' 'service' or similar fee or charge made by the insurer in consideration for an insurance contract is deemed part of the premium."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Thus, we readily accept the proposition that the term "premium" contemplates a changing, or changeable sum.  This does not, however, justify such a liberal (as opposed to literal) reading of the critical language of RCW 41.04.230, supra, as would be necessary to sanction the kind of "blanket" payroll deduction authorization for the payment of insurance premiums which is apparently contemplated by your question.

            Secondly, we believe it worthwhile to make note, for comparative purposes, of another statute, RCW 41.04.020, in which the legislature appears to have recognized the fluctuating nature of insurance premiums as related to the analogous question of payroll deductions for health care benefit plans, life insurance or accident and health disability insurance.  RCW 41.04.020, which originated as § 1, chapter 70, Laws of 1947, reads, in full, as follows:

            "Any employee or group of employees of the state of Washington or any of its political subdivisions, or of any institution supported, in whole or in part, by the state or any of its political subdivisions, may authorize the deduction from his or their salaries or wages, the amount or amounts of his or their subscription payments or contributions to any person, firm or corporation furnishing or providing medical, surgical and hospital care or either of them, or life insurance or accident and health disability insurance:  PROVIDED, That such authorization by said employee or group of employees, shall be first approved by the head of the department, division office or institution of the state or any political subdivision thereof, employing such person or group of persons, and filed with the department of personnel; or in the case of political subdivisions of the state of Washington, with the auditor of such political subdivision or the person authorized by law to draw warrants against the funds of said political subdivision."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Clearly, the language of this latter statute is such as to permit the very approach which is envisioned by your question, but only in the case of certain other listed categories or types of insurance ‑- as contrasted with "accident and casualty" insurance (i.e., basically, homeowners or automobile coverage) under RCW 41.04.230(7), supra.  But at the  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] same time, quite obviously, RCW 41.04.020 demonstrates that the legislature is quite capable of sanctioning that approach by appropriate language, as distinguished from the above‑quoted critical language of RCW 41.04.230(7), when truly it is its intent to do so.  See also, RCW 41.04.235 with regard to the analogous question of retirement allowance deductions for health care benefit plans.1/

             Accordingly, for the above‑stated reasons, our direct answer to your question, as set forth, must be in the negative.  We trust that this opinion will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/RCW 41.04.235, which codifies the provisions of § 1, chapter 73, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess., was obviously patterned after RCW 41.04.020, supra, and reads as follows:

            "Participants in a health care benefit plan approved pursuant to RCW 41.04.180, 41.05.020, or 28A.58.420, whichever is applicable, who are retired public employees, may authorize the deduction from their retirement allowances,of the amount or amounts of their subscription payments, premiums, or contributions  to any person, firm, or corporation furnishing or providing medical, surgical, and hospital care or other health care insurance upon the approval by the retirement board of an application for such deduction on the prescribed form, and the treasurer of the state shall duly and timely draw and issue proper warrants directly to and in favor of the person, firm, or corporation, or organization named in the authorization for the amount authorized to be deducted."  (Emphasis supplied)

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