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AGLO 1973 No. 25 - Feb 15 1973
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Effect of § 4 of Senate Bill 2153 on professional negotiations in community colleges.

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                                                                February 15, 1973

Honorable Harry B. Lewis
State Senator, 22nd District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 25

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on two questions pertaining to the potential impact of § 4 of Senate Bill No. 2153 upon the authority of a community college board of trustees.  Specifically you have asked:

            "Would you please advise me as to whether this section could in any way impair, or create uncertainty in the ability of a community college board of trustees:

            "a. To adopt policies, rules, or regulations on which it had not first negotiated to 'agreement' with the faculty organization, or

            "b. To determine and ultimately decide when 'the conclusion of any negotiation process' has been reached and to adopt the policies related to the issue being negotiated?"


            Senate Bill No. 2153 is a proposal to amend the existing provisions of chapter 28B.52 RCW, encompassing the provisions of chapter 196, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., and providing for "professional negotiations" by academic personnel employed by the various community colleges.  Section 4 of this bill, to which you have referred, would, if enacted, add the following new section to this chapter:

            "At the conclusion of any negotiation processes as provided for in section 2 of this 1973 amendatory act, any matter upon which the parties have reached agreement shall be reduced to writing and acted upon in a regular or special meeting of the boards of trustees, and become part of the official proceedings of said board meeting.  The length of terms within any such agreement shall be for not  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] more than three fiscal years.  These agreements will not be binding upon future actions of the legislature."

            We find nothing inthis section which would in any way limit the authority of a community college board of trustees either to adopt policies, rules or regulations on which it had not first negotiated or to determine when "the conclusion of any negotiation process" has been reached.  All that § 4,supra, would do, as we read it, is to provide that at the conclusion of any negotiation processes, and only insofar as the parties thereto have reached agreement on the matters being negotiated, the substance of that agreement shall be reduced to writing, be acted upon at a regular or special meeting of the board of trustees, and become a part of the official proceedings of the board meeting.

            This proposed new section would not vary current law (RCW 28B.52.030) to the extentit requires negotiations prior to the adoption of policy by a board of trustees.  Some may, of course, characterizethis existing condition precedent as an "impairment" of a board's powers.  However, it is certain that a board, after having fulfilled its duty to negotiate as may be required by either current law or Senate Bill No. 2153, may ultimately exercise its functions of governance except as limited by any lawful agreement with the employee organization with which it has been negotiating.

            Similarly, proposed new section 4, supra, would not vary the processes of negotiations other than to add the requirement that whatever may be agreed upon shall be reduced to a written agreement not longer in duration than three fiscal years.  Currently there is no requirement that the parties reduce any agreement following negotiation to a binding written contract, although the same is permissible.  Such a requirement, however, would not compel agreement nor vary the requirement currently inherent in the negotiations law that the parties mutually seek agreement through the process of negotiations.1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is hoped that the foregoing explanation of this section of Senate Bill No. 2153 will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/While the foregoing represents our best judgment with respect to this question, any remaining doubt as to the impact of § 4, supra, on the negotiation process, perse, could easily be removed by amending this bill to add another section reading somewhat as follows:

            Nothing in this act shall compel either party to agree to a proposal or to make a concession, nor shall any provision of this act be construed as limiting or precluding the exercise by each community college board of trustees of any powers or duties authorized or provided to it by law unless such exercise is contrary to the terms and conditions of any lawful negotiated agreement.