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AGO 1982 No. 3 - January 21, 1982
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

LEGISLATURE ‑- JOINT LEGISLATIVE ARTS COMMITTEE ‑- DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL ADMINISTRATION ‑- ART ‑- RESPONSIBILITY FOR WORKS OF ART IN LEGISLATIVE BUILDING

Identification of the respective powers and responsibilities of the Joint Legislative Arts Committee, the State Capitol Committee, the Department of General Administration and the respective houses for the selection, acquisition and subsequent control over works of art in the Legislative Building. 

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

                                                                 January 21, 1982 

Honorable John L. O'Brien
Parliamentary Leader
House of Representatives
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504

Cite as:  AGO 1982 No. 3                                                                                                                  

Dear Sir:

           By recent letter you requested our opinion regarding the acquisition and control of art work in the state Legislative Building.  Specifically, you asked:

             (1) "Is the acquisition and control of the art work in the legislative building now under the authority and responsibility of the Joint Legislative Art Committee as established in Chapter 173 of the laws of 1980?"

             (2) "What is the authority of the State Capitol Committe [Committee] in regard to the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in the legislative building?"

             (3) "What is the authority of the Department of General Administration in regard to the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in the legislative building?"

             (4) "What is the authority of the House of Representatives or the Senate over the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in each legislative chamber or other places in the legislative building?"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We answer the foregoing questions in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             Before addressing your questions as above stated, let us note, for the record, that your inquiry is general in scope and that you have not in your letter referred to any particular work of art.  Obviously, however, any application of the conclusions set forth herein to a specific case would involve a further review of the facts pertinent to that case.

             Question (1):

            First you have asked:

             "Is the acquisition and control of the art work in the legislative building now under the authority and responsibility of the Joint Legislative Art Committee as established in Chapter 173 of the laws of 1980?"

            In dealing with this question, and your other questions as well, it will be necessary for us to distinguish between the functions of (a) initial acquisition and (b) subsequent control (including the ability to remove) over art works previously acquired.

             By its enactment of chapter 173, Laws of 1980,1/ the legislature created a Joint Legislative Arts Committee consisting of four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives.  The delegated powers and functions of the committee, as spelled out in § 5(1) of the act (now RCW 44.42.050) are as follows:

             "(1) The joint legislative arts committee shall have the following powers and duties:

             "(a) To do all things necessary to acquire works of art for the legislative building;

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(b) To prepare a comprehensive plan for the acquisition of works of art for the legislative building, and submit the plan for review by the legislature on or before the commencement of the 1981 regular session;

             "(c) To contract for the services of a jury of professionals in the arts to be selected by the committee.  The jury of professionals shall consist of persons of impeccable stature and qualifications and represent the various appropriate art media.  The jury of professionals shall make recommendations to the committee regarding matters relating to the selection of works of art."

             In turn, subsection (2) of § 5 provides that:

             "(2) At the request of the joint legislative arts committee, the Washington state arts commission, the department of general administration, the state capitol historical museum, and other agencies of the state shall provide support and assistance to the committee necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter."

             In view of the express terms of this 1980 legislation, an affirmative answer to part (a) of your first question appears to be in order.  The acquisition of art work in the Legislative Building is now ". . . under the authority and responsibility of the Joint Legislative Arts Committee as established by Chapter 173, laws of 1980."

             On the other hand, once that function of selection and acquisition has been completed, we find nothing in the 1980 law which purports to vest the commission with any sort of continuing authority over what has been acquired.  Instead, as below explained, that in our opinion is a matter which remains governed by the law as it was before enactment of chapter 173,supra.

             Question (2):

             Your second question, repeated for ease of reference, reads as follows:

             "What is the authority of the State Capitol Committee in regard to the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in the legislative building?"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            An examination of the statutes relating to the State Capitol Committee, which is composed of the Governor, lieutenant governor and land commissioner,2/ reveals nothing purporting to vest that body with any functions or responsibilities regarding the acquisition and/or control of works of art in the Legislative Building.  Instead, the functions of the Capitol Committee are basically related to the acquisition of real property within Thurston County for the housing of state agencies (see, RCW 43.82.020) and the construction of certain improvements thereon (RCW 43.34.040).

             Question (3):

             This question asks:

             "What is the authority of the Department of General Administration in regard to the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in the legislative building?"

             RCW 43.19.125 provides that the director of the Department of General Administration,

             ". . . shall have custody and control of the capitol buildings and grounds, [and shall] supervise and direct proper care, heating, lighting and repairing thereof, and designate rooms in the capitol buildings to be occupied by various state officials."

             By letter opinion dated January 12, 1981 (copy enclosed), we advised the then director that the subject of this statutory authority included the Legislative Building.  Accordingly, but for the enactment of chapter 173, Laws of 1980, supra, both the initial acquisition and the subsequent maintenance of major art works in the Legislative Building would be, and remain, a function and responsibility of the Department of General Administration.  Moreover, it was presumably with this in mind that the 1979 legislature (prior to the passage of chapter 173, Laws of 1980, supra) appropriated $200,000 to the Department of General Administration for "legislative chambers' art work."  See, § 174(3), chapter 270, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            With the enactment of chapter 173, supra, however, the role of the Department of General Administration appears to have been altered.  No longer is it vested with the same overall function as before, insofar as the initial selection and acquisition of major works of art is concerned.  Instead, at that stage, the function of the department, under § 5(2) of the 1980 enactment,supra, is that of providing support and assistance to the Joint Legislative Arts Committee.3

              In accordance with our answer to question (1), above, however, once a particular work of art has been selected and acquired, the statutory function of the committee is fully performed.  Thereafter, the provisions of RCW 43.19.125, supra, continue to govern‑-meaning that insofar as any major works of art are concerned, it is still the Department of General Administration which has control and responsibility.4

             Question (4):

             Finally, you have asked:

             "What is the authority of the House of Representatives or the Senate over the acquisition, control and responsibility of the art work in each legislative chamber or other places in the legislative building?"

              [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            Presumably, you mean by this question to focus in on the legal authority of each house of the legislature, acting by itself (and not in concert with the other house in enactment of amendatory legislation) to acquire, retain or dispose of works of art in the Legislative Building.

             Clearly, neither house‑-acting by itself‑-has any authority over those portions of the Legislative Building which are occupied by the other house or by some other state officer such as the Governor, treasurer, auditor or secretary of state.  Nor, even within its own individual chambers is there any statute which supplants either chapter 173, Laws of 1980, supra, with respect to initial acquisition, or RCW 43.19.125 with regard to subsequent control.  Therefore, in response to this question, we must conclude as follows:

            (a) Neither house, acting by itself and not through the Joint Legislative Arts Committee, may expend public funds for the selection and acquisition of art works covered by chapter 173, supra;

             (b) Likewise, neither house may, without the approval and cooperation of the Department of General Administration, thereafter remove from its chambers a "major work of art" as we have heretofore used that term in this opinion;5

              (c) In the case of other works such as paintings merely hung on walls, etc., so long as the item is thus easily removable without damage to either the building or the art work itself, it may be so removed and stored by the body occupying the particular chamber without necessarily going through General Administration in the process.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

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

 Yours very truly,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Deputy Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Now codified as chapter 44.42 RCW.

 2/See, RCW 43.34.010.

 3/For example, we note that the contract for legislative art work which led to installation of the two large murals now hanging on the walls of the House of Representatives, although executed after the passage of chapter 173, Laws of 1980, supra, was, nevertheless, actually entered into between the Department of General Administration and the particular artist responsible for those murals.

 4/We use the term "major art work" to denote art work of such magnitude that, once installed, it in effect becomes part of the building.  The historical administrative practice of the Department of General Administration, as we understand it, has been not to concern itself with other art works such as, for example, pictures merely hung on walls.

 5/See, footnote 4, supra. 

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