- - - - - - - - - - - - -
February 8, 1971
Honorable Thomas L. Copeland
State Representative, District 11-B
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 20 (not official)
This is written in response to your recent request for our advice as to whether Senate Bill No. 375, if enacted in its present form, would violate the provisions of Article II, § 19 of our state Constitution.
Senate Bill No. 375 is entitled:
"An Act Relating to age qualifications for certain purposes; amending . . ."
Thereafter, in the title, are listed some 75 existing statutory sections which include age qualifications for certain purposes, and which would each be amended in regard to those age qualifications by § 1 and §§ 3-76 of the bill. In addition, the bill would contain, as § 2, a new section reading as follows:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all persons shall be deemed and taken to be of full age for the specific purposes hereafter enumerated at the age of eighteen years:
"(1) To enter into any marriage contract without parental consent if otherwise qualified by law;
"(2) To execute a will for the disposition of both real and personal property if otherwise qualified by law;
"(3) To vote in any election if authorized by the Constitution and otherwise qualified by law;
"(4) To enter into any legal contractual obligation and to be legally bound thereby to the full extent as any other adult person;
"(5) To make decisions in regard to their own [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] body and the body of their lawful issue whether natural born to or adopted by such person to the full extent allowed to any other adult person including but not limited to consent to surgical operations;
"(6) To sue and be sued on any action to the full extent as any other adult person in any of the courts of this state, without the necessity for a guardian ad litem."
In its two remaining sections, §§ 77 and 78, the bill would (1) repeal RCW 66.44.315 which establishes age qualifications for musicians to enter licensed premises for entertainment purposes; and (2) provide for a standard severability clause.
Article II, § 19 of the Washington Constitution provides that:
"No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title."
In Power, Inc. v. Huntley, 39 Wn.2d 191, 235 P.2d 173 (1951), the supreme court described this section as follows:
"This provision contains two prohibitions: (1) No bill shall embrace more than one subject (the purpose of which is to avoid hodgepodge and 'logrolling' legislation); and (2) no bill shall have a subject which is not expressed in the title (the purpose of which is to notify the members of the legislature and the public of the subject matter of the proposed legislation)."
Thereupon, the court went on to hold that if the first of these two prohibitions is violated, the entire act is void, quoting with approval from 1 Cooley's Constitutional Limitations (8th ed.) 308, as follows:
"'But if the title to the act actually indicates, and the act itself actually embraces, two distinct objects, when the constitution says it shall embrace but one, the whole act must be treated as void, from the manifest impossibility in the court choosing between the two, and holding the act valid as to the one and void as to the other.'"
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
This we may refer to as a "double subject" violation. Conversely, if the second prohibition is violated, in that the bill contains a "hidden subject" not expressed in its title, only the hidden subject is void ‑ provided that it can be severed from the remainder of the bill. See, Swanson v. School District No. 15, 109 Wash. 652, 187 Pac. 386 (1920); Swedish Hospital Etc. v. Dept. L. & I., 26 Wn.2d 819, 176 P.2d 429 (1947).
From an examination of the provisions of Senate Bill No. 375, we are totally satisfied that nothing contained therein would constitute a "hidden subject." In other words, all of its numerous sections involve the subject stated in the title to the act ‑ i.e., ". . . age qualifications for certain purposes; . . ." In this respect, the bill, in our opinion, meets the test set forth in Gruen v. State Tax Commission, 35 Wn.2d 1, 22, 211 P.2d 651 (1949), in which the court said:
". . . Where the title of a legislative act expresses a general subject or purpose which is single, all matters which are naturally and reasonably connected with it, and all measures which will, or may, facilitate the accomplishment of the purpose so stated, are properly included in the act and are germane to its title."
Moreover, it seems clear to us that the subject designated in the title ‑ ". . . age qualifications for certain purposes . . ." ‑ constitutes a single general subject within the meaning of the Constitution and the many cases which have interpreted its provisions and applied them to specific legislative enactments. See, e.g., Treffry v. Taylor, 67 Wn.2d 487, 408 P.2d 269 (1965), wherein the following rules were enunciated:
"The title to a bill need not be an index to its contents; nor is the title expected to give the details contained in the bill. . . .
"The test of the sufficiency of a title is that it must give notice of its object so as reasonably to lead to an inquiry into its contents. . . . The title to an act may be general, and all matters incidental or germane thereto may be written into the body of the law. . . ."
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
Accordingly, in summary, it is our opinion that if Senate Bill No. 375 is enacted in its present form, this enactment will be in accordance with the provision of Article II, § 19, supra.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General