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AGLO 1971 No. 56 - March 31, 1971
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

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                                                                  March 31, 1971

Honorable William J.S. "Bill" May
State Representative, Third District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98501                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 56 (not official)

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on two questions pertaining to House Bill No. 90, presently pending before the legislature.  The bill in question is entitled "An Act Relating to educational opportunities for all handicapped children" and its purpose is set forth in § 1, as follows:

            "It is the purpose of this 1971 amendatory act to ensure that all handicapped children as defined in section 2 of this 1971 amendatory act shall have the opportunity for an appropriate education at public expense as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of this state."

            Question (1):

            Your first question arises from an estimate that the fiscal impact of this bill would be in the neighborhood of $16,000,000 per biennium.  You have pointed out, however, that the bill itself makes no appropriation of funds to pay its costs.  Therefore, you have asked whether the legislature may, constitutionally, enact a law which ". . . necessarily binds the State, and future legislatures, to pay costs resulting from the law's passage, but for which the law makes no provision."


            Clearly, under the provisions of Article VIII, § 4 (Amendment 11) of our state constitution, no funds may be expended from our state treasury for any of the purposes contemplated by the bill without an appropriation by the legislature of the necessary money.  However, in order to characterize House Bill No. 90 as obligating future legislatures to fund, by appropriation, any of the programs contemplated by the bill it would be necessary to conclude  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] that the legislature, having once enacted this measure, would then be powerless to amend or repeal the bill at some future session if it then desired to do so.  Clearly, nothing contained within this bill, nor in any existing law or constitutional provisions, could be said to have any such a limiting effect upon the authority of future legislatures.

            Question (2):

            You have expressed your second inquiry regarding House Bill No. 90 as follows:

            "Another inquiry arises from the fact that the Governor, apparently anticipating the bill's passage, submitted a proposed budget to the Legislature, recommending an appropriation of 5.5 million dollars to pay part of the costs arising from the passage of House Bill 90.  The Governor's action raises the question of the propriety of the Governor in attempting to influence pending legislation, and whether such conduct exceeds the limits of separation of powers contemplated by our constitution."

            We can perceive of no possible constitutional violation arising by virtue of the governor either recommending the passage of this legislation or including in his proposed budget (as submitted to the legislature under the budget and accounting act)1/ proposals for the necessary funding of programs to be carried out under legislation which he has recommended.  It is, of course, true that a bill (whether it be an appropriation or proposed substantive legislation) can only be introduced into either house of the legislature by a person who is a member thereof.2/   However, this fact by no means precludes the governor from either recommending the passage of substantive legislation, or from recommending its necessary funding as a part of the state's budget.  In fact, conclusive of the foregoing it is the express language of Article III, § 6 of our constitution which, speaking of the constitutional duties of the governor, states:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "He shall communicate at every session by message to the legislature the condition of the affairs of the state, and recommend such measures as he shall deem expedient for their action."

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

Very truly yours,


Philip H. Austin

Deputy Attorney General


                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, RCW 43.88.030 ‑ 43.88.100

2/See, Article II, § 20, which provides for the origination of any bill in either house of the legislature.


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