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AGLO 1971 No. 58 - April 05, 1971
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

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                                                                    April 5, 1971
Honorable John Rabel
State Representative, 43rd District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98501                                                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 58 (not official)
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion regarding the applicability of Article II, § 19 to a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution.
            Article II, § 19, to which you have referred, reads as follows:
            "No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            While at one time, it was practice for the legislature to utilize the device of a "bill" to propose a constitutional amendment,1/ for nearly fifty years now such amendments have been proposed by House or Senate Joint Resolutions instead.  Most certainly, this is an acceptable procedure, for the governing constitutional provision with respect to such proposed constitutional amendments is not Article II, § 19, supra, but rather, it is Article XXIII, § 1, reading as follows:
            "Any amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in either branch of the legislature; and if the same shall be agreed to by two-thirds of the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on their journals,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] with the ayes and noes thereon, and be submitted to the qualified electors of the state for their approval, at the next general election; and if the people approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the same shall become part of this Constitution and proclamation thereof shall be made by the governor: Provided, That if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such a manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately.  The legislature shall also cause notice of the amendments that are to be submitted to the people to be published at least four times during the four weeks next preceding the election in every legal newspaper in the state:  Provided, That failure of any newspaper to publish this notice shall not be interpreted as affecting the outcome of the election."
            For your use and information in connection with the scope of this provision, in terms of so-called "double amendments," etc., we are enclosing herewith a copy of our opinion to the Legislative Council dated October 18, 1968, and enclosures thereto.  Therein you will find the approaches which have been taken by courts throughout the country in determining whether a particular proposed constitutional amendment actually contained "more than one amendment" in contravention of limitations similar or identical to the provision contained in our own Article XXIII, § 1, supra.
            Moreover, because a constitutional amendment may be proposed by a joint resolution and is not required to be in the form of a bill subject to the provisions of Article II, § 19, supra, it follows that such a proposal is not required to have a formal title as in the case of a bill.  Therefore, it follows that where one is considering a question of whether a particular joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment which has been approved by one House may serve as a vehicle for a different constitutional amendment in the other House (i.e., by "scalping" the original and substituting the different proposal in its place) no concern need be given to the "scope of the title" of the original resolution because the original will have no such title with which to be concerned.
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            In addition to the foregoing question, you have also inquired as to the applicability of a certain rule of the House of Representatives to a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment.  The rule which we believe you have in mind is House Rule 33, which reads as follows:
            "No motion or proposition on a subject different from that under consideration shall be admitted under color of amendment; and no bill or resolution shall at any time be amended by annexing thereto or incorporating therein any other bill or resolution pending before the house."2/
             By its own terms, this rule would appear to be applicable both to bills and to resolutions.  However, since the rule is essentially one of internal procedure, to be applied by the Speaker of the House on the basis of a particular challenge, it would not be appropriate for this office to attempt to express an opinion upon the question of its specific applicability or inapplicability to any given measure ‑ whether it be in the form of a bill or a joint resolution.
            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,

Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/See, e.g., the 1911 legislature's House Bill No. 153 [[H.B. 153]]which was the vehicle by which the legislature proposed the constitutional amendment establishing the Initiative and Referendum procedures in this state.
2/Cf., Senate Rule 62, which provides that:
            "No amendment to any bill shall be allowed which shall change the scope and object of the bill."

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