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November 30, 1972
Honorable Gordon Sandison
State Senator, 24th District
P.O. Box 967
Port Angeles, Washington 98362
Cite as: AGLO 1972 No. 84 (not official)
This is written in response to your recent letter concerning the payment of per diem and expenses to newly elected members of the state senate. With regard to these individuals you have advised us as follows:
"Newly-elected members to the Senate have been called upon to attend organizational meetings, and for the first time have been appointed to both the Committee on Committees and Senate Employment Committee. They will be called upon to attend frequent meetings before they are sworn into office next January."
You have then stated your question as follows:
"It is my understanding that [these newly elected members] are not eligible to receive expense payments, and I would appreciate your opinion as to whether such claims can be honored in the future by one of the following methods:
"1. By a change in the rules governing the Senate;
"2. By the adoption of a Senate Floor Resolution authorizing the same; or
"3. Does it require an amendment to existing statutes?"
We assume from your letter that you have used the phrase "newly-elected members of the Senate" to describe only those persons elected to the senate at the November 7, 1972 general election who are not currently [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] members of the legislature and will not become so until the commencement of the terms to which they were elected ‑ which, of course, will not occur (in this case) until January 8, 1973. See, RCW 44.07.540, together with Washington Constitution, Article II, §§5 and 6. Accordingly, the reason for their ineligibility for per diem and expenses at this time is quite simple; the authority for payment of these monies is wholly statutory, and the only statutes currently in effect apply only to persons who are already members of the senate or house.
First to be noted is RCW 44.04.080, which covers the payment of per diem during legislative sessions as follows:
"Members of the legislature including the president of the senate shall be paid not to exceed forty dollars per day in lieu of subsistence and lodging during and while attending any legislative session."
Insofar as the payment of per diem and expenses during interims between sessions is concerned, the only existing authority for such payments is RCW 44.04.120, which provides that:
"Each member of the senate or house of representatives when serving on official legislative business during the interim between legislative sessions, or while serving on the legislative council, the legislative budget committee, or any other permanent or interim committee, commission, or council of the legislature shall be entitled to receive, in lieu of per diem or any other payment, for each day or major portion thereof in which he is actually engaged in legislative business or business of the committee, commission, or council, notwithstanding any laws to the contrary, twenty-five dollars per day, plus mileage allowance at the rate of ten cents per mile when authorized by the house, committee, commission, or council of which he is a member and on the business of which he is engaged."
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Because this statute speaks only in terms of persons who are already members of the senate or the house of representatives, it has no application to "newly elected senators" prior to their assumption of office at the commencement of the terms to which they were elected. Accordingly, it follows that in order to establish authority to pay per diem expenses to such persons, an appropriate statutory amendment will be necessary.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General