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AGO 1987 No. 25 - November 25, 1987
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- STATE PATROL ‑- AUTHORITY OF STATE PATROL TO EXERCISE POWERS AND DUTIES OF COMMISSION ON EQUIPMENT 

The Washington State Patrol can exercise powers and duties of the Commission on Equipment set forth in chapters 247 and 311, Laws of 1987. 

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

                                                               November 25, 1987 

Honorable George B. Tellevik
Chief, Washington State Patrol
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington 98504

 Cite as:  AGO 1987 No. 25                                                                                                                

Dear Chief Tellevik:

             By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office on the following question:

             Can the Washington State Patrol exercise powers and duties of the Commission on Equipment set forth in chapters 247 and 311, Laws of 1987?

             We answer your question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             In the 1987 session, the Legislature passed three bills relating to motor vehicles.  Each of these bills amended, added to, or repealed portions of Title 46 RCW.  Your question arises because, in failing to integrate these three bills, the Legislature created an ambiguity as to the authority of the State Patrol to exercise powers and duties under two of the bills.

            Chapter 330, Laws of 1987 eliminated several state boards and commissions and transferred their powers and duties to other state agencies.  Part VI of chapter 330 (sections 701 through 749) eliminated references to the "commission on equipment" and substituted "state patrol" in many provisions of Title 46 RCW.  In addition, section 706 eliminated the provisions establishing the State Commission on Equipment and transferred its powers and duties  [[Orig. Op. Page 2] ] to the Chief of the State Patrol.  Such powers and duties include those necessary

             to adopt, apply, and enforce such reasonable rules and regulations  . . . relating to vehicle equipment, and . . . relating to the enforcement of the provisions of this title with regard to vehicle equipment, as may be deemed necessary for the public welfare and safety in addition to but not inconsistent with the provisions of this title.

             The legislative intent to eliminate the Commission on Equipment and transfer the Commission's powers and duties to the State Patrol is clear from chapter 330, Laws of 1987.  This legislative intent is clouded, however, by the passage of chapters 247 and 311, Laws of 1987.

             In chapter 247, the Legislature approved the court-ordered use of an ignition interlock device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the operator has recently consumed alcohol.  In section 3, the State Commission on Equipment was designated as the entity for the certification of such devices.  This designation must be reconciled with the transfer of powers and duties from the State Commission on Equipment to the State Patrol to determine if the State Patrol can implement chapter 247.

             In chapter 311, the Legislature comprehensively modified the laws relating to the removal of vehicles from unsafe or unauthorized locations.  In chapter 311, the legislature retained references to the State Commission on Equipment when it modified the provisions of Title 46 RCW.

             The Governor, however, vetoed each of the sections of chapter 311 that referred to the State Commission on Equipment.  The Governor's veto message states that it was the intent of the Legislature in chapter 330 to transfer the responsibilities of the State Commission on Equipment to the State Patrol and, therefore, the partial veto was done to avoid any confusion between chapters 311 and 330.  The provisions of the two chapters must be reconciled, however, to determine if the State Patrol can implement chapter 311.

             There are basic rules of statutory construction that act as a guide for interpretation of ambiguous laws, such as those under consideration here.  In State ex rel. Oregon R. & N. Co. v. Clausen, 63 Wash. 535, 116 P. 7 (1911) the court  [[Orig. Op. Page 3] ] construed two acts of the same legislature which gave to two different boards the power to find the value of railroad property.  The rule enunciated by theClausen court was "that where there are two or more provisions relating to the same subject-matter they must, if possible, be construed so as to maintain the integrity of both."  63 Wash. at 539.  Particularly when statutes are passed at the same session of the Legislature, it is presumed that such acts are imbued with the same spirit and actuated by the same policy.  They are to be construed so as to harmonize and give effect to each.  Id. at 540.  Therefore, even if chapters 247, 311, and 330 appear to conflict, they are to be construed, if possible, to give effect to each without distortion of the language used.  Tommy P. v. Board of Cy. Comm'rs, 97 Wn.2d 385, 645 P.2d 697 (1982).

             A second fundamental rule of statutory construction is that the law favors a rational and sensible construction and that absurd results should be avoided.  State v. Burke, 92 Wn.2d 474, 598 P.2d 395 (1979); Lenci v. Seattle, 63 Wn.2d 664, 388 P.2d 926 (1964); 2A C. Sands,Statutory Construction § 45.12 (4th ed. 1984).  Furthermore, the Legislature is presumed not to engage in unnecessary or meaningless acts and, therefore, statutory language should be interpreted in a manner that does not render any portion superfluous or insignificant.  State v. McCullum, 98 Wn.2d 484, 656 P.2d 1064 (1983).

             These rules require that chapters 247, 311, and 330 be construed together so as to give effect to each in a sensible manner.  Because the Legislature intended to eliminate the State Commission on Equipment through chapter 330, chapters 247 and 311 should not be construed to give new powers and duties to the Commission.

             Since chapter 330 evidences the clear intent to have the State Patrol assume the Commission's powers and duties, it is reasonable that the State Patrol should be substituted for the State Commission on Equipment in implementing section 3 of chapter 247.  Such a construction gives effect to both chapters in a sensible manner.

            It is also reasonable and consistent with the rules of statutory construction to construe chapter 311 so as to allow the State Patrol to exercise the powers and duties of the State Commission on Equipment.  The Governor's veto message in chapter 311 states that this was the intent.  When vetoing bills, the Governor acts in a legislative capacity and thus the veto serves as part of the legislative intent.  State v. Brasel, 28 Wn.App. 303,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4] ] 623 P.2d 696 (1981).  In addition, the Governor's veto resulted in the preservation of three sections referring to the State Commission on Equipment, each of which was explicitly modified by chapter 330 so as to substitute a reference to the State Patrol.1/

             To make both chapters 311 and 330 effective, the State Patrol must be substituted for the State Commission on Equipment as the agency to implement chapter 311.  This interpretation is consistent with the legislative intent evidenced in the Governor's veto message and is consistent with the State Patrol's general authority under RCW 43.43.030.

             In sum, chapters 247, 311, and 330, Laws of 1987, as construed to harmonize and give sensible effect to each of them, transferred the powers and duties of the State Commission on Equipment to the State Patrol.  This transfer authorizes the State Patrol to exercise the powers and duties of the Commission on Equipment set forth in chapters 247 and 311, Laws of 1987.

 Very truly yours,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

TERESE NEU RICHMOND
Assistant Attorney General 

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

  1/Section 11 of chapter 311 contained language identical to RCW 46.61.567.  RCW 46.61.567 remained intact following the veto of section 21(9) of chapter 311 and was subsequently modified to refer to the State Patrol by section 744 of chapter 330.  Section 16 of chapter 311 would have amended RCW 46.55.170, which was subsequently modified by section 741 of chapter 330 to refer to the State Patrol.  Section 21(6) of chapter 311 would have repealed RCW 46.61.563, which was modified by section 743 of chapter 330 to refer to the State Patrol.

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