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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 20 - Feb 21 1957
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The Capitol Committee is prohibited from utilizing funds derived from the capitol land grant for improvement of streets or arterials not included within or immediately contiguous to the state capitol.

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                                                                February 21, 1957

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 20

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion indicating whether or not the capitol committee may expend funds derived from capitol building lands granted by the Enabling Act (25 Stat. at L. 576) for improvement and construction of arterials connecting the capitol grounds with the new Highway 99.

            Your inquiry is answered in the negative.


            At the present time §§ 12 and 17 of the Enabling Act, although construed broadly by the Washington supreme court, have never been construed to apply other than to the erection, renovation, or furnishing of the public buildings at the capitol for legislative, executive and judicial purposes.  State ex rel. Bookstore v. Potts, 141 Wash. 110, 250 Pac. 1090, 1926.  Congress is currently taking action to amend the Enabling Act, and had this problem been raised a few days earlier it might have been possible to suggest including within the amendment,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] authority for the use of such funds for the improvement of streets and arterials in and adjacent to the state capitol.

            Chapter 43.34 RCW, restricts the power of the committee to that set forth in Title 79 RCW, which in turn restricts the use of the funds to ". . . the purpose for which they were granted. . . ."  (RCW 79.24.020)

            Section 12 of the Enabling Act grants the properties from which the funds are derived ". . . for the purpose of erecting public buildings at the capitol. . . ."  Section 17 of the Enabling Act, although omitting the term erect, confides the use of the properties to "public buildings."

            The amendment now under consideration in the Congress would change § 12 to read "for public buildings, including construction, reconstruction, furnishings, equipment, repair, renovation and any other permanent improvement of such buildings. . . ."

            When these sections were last constructed by our supreme court, the expenditure for furnishings of capitol buildings was found to have an immediate and direct bearing upon the purpose for which the capitol lands were granted.  State ex rel. Bookstroe v. Potts, supra.

            Although we are not prepared to say that the expenditure contemplated here does not have some bearing upon the purpose for which the capitol lands were granted, we cannot conclude that the improvement of arterials outside and not immediately contiguous to the capitol grounds would have an "immediate or direct bearing" within the purpose of the Enabling Act.  This result would be even clearer were the proposed Congressional amendment presently in effect.

            We conclude, accordingly, that the use of the funds is restricted to its purpose set forth in § 12 of the Enabling Act.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We trust that the foregoing will be helpful to your committee.  Feel free to call on us at any time if we may be of further assistance.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General