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February 10, 1971
Honorable Thomas L. Copeland
State Representative, District 11-B
Honorable Irving Newhouse
State Representative, District 8-A
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 24 (not official)
On January 26, 1971, we wrote you a comprehensive attorney general's opinion regarding the procedures which are available to the legislature in responding to an initiative which has been submitted to it under the provisions of Article II, § 1 (Amendment 7) of our state Constitution. Among the alternatives which were discussed at some length in this opinion was that of either rejecting or taking no action upon the initiative but enacting, in lieu thereof, an alternative proposal covering the same subject. We indicated that if such a "substitute" measure were enacted it would have to go on the next regular election ballot along with the rejected initiative itself ‑ at which time both measures would be voted upon in accordance with the following constitutionally prescribed procedures:
". . . When conflicting measures are submitted to the people the ballots shall be so printed that a voter can express separately by making one cross (X) for each, two preferences, first, as between either measure and neither, and secondly, as between one and the other. If the majority of those voting on the first issue is for neither, both fail, but in that case the votes on the second issue shall nevertheless be carefully counted and made public. If a majority voting on the first issue is for either, then the measure receiving a majority of the votes on the second issue shall be law."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
By letter dated February 9, 1971, you has [[have]]asked for our advice on the following related question:
". . . can the Legislature vote unfavorably, or refuse to act on the initiative to the Legislature during the regular session and submit by referendum an alternative proposal to that initiative during a succeeding session?"
Under Article II, § 1 (a), it is clear that the legislature's immediate response to an initiative which has been certified to it by the secretary of state must take place before the end of the regular session to which the initiative was certified.1/ However, the portion of the Constitution which authorizes the legislature to propose a different measure ". . . dealing with the same subject . . ." is not limited in time to the specific legislative session to which the initiative itself was submitted.
Therefore, and in accordance with the general reasoning of AGO 1971 No. 5 [[to Thomas L. Copeland, State Representative and Irving Newhouse, State Representative on January 26, 1971]], it is our opinion that if the legislature enacts a substitute measure at any time prior to the election at which the rejected initiative is to be voted upon, the substitute will, of necessity, be required to be submitted by the secretary of state to the people for approval or rejection (as an alternative to the initiative) at that next regular election. And, most certainly any doubt regarding the correctness of this procedure could be eliminated by including, as a part of the substitute measure, a specific referendum clause or provision such as you have referred to in your question.
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/The pertinent constitutional language reads as follows:
". . . Such initiative measure shall take precedence over all other measures in the legislature except appropiation bills and shall be either enacted or rejected without change or amendment by the legislature before the end of such regular session. . . ."