Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1974 No. 3 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


It is not a violation of Article VIII, §§ 5 or 7 of the state Constitution for the governor to proclaim a legal holiday in accordance with the authority granted to him in RCW 1.16.050.

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                                                                  January 7, 1974

Honorable A. L. Rasmussen
State Senator, 29th District
5415 A Street
Tacoma, Washington 98408                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 3

Dear Senator Rasmussen:

            By letter dated December 27, 1973, you have requested our opinion as to the legality of Governor Evans' recent declaration of December 24, and 31, 1973, as legal holidays.  In particular, you have questioned the constitutionality of this action in the light of Article VIII, §§ 5 and 7 of the state Constitution which prohibit the lending of state and municipal credit, respectively.


            We do not believe that either of these constitutional provisions were violated by the action of which you have complained.  In proclaiming the two days in question to be legal holidays, the governor was acting in accordance with an express statutory provision, RCW 1.16.050, which, as most recently amended by § 1, chapter 1, Laws of 1973, 2nd Ex. Sess., provides as follows:

            "The following are legal holidays: Sundays; the first day of January, commonly called New Year's Day; the twelfth day of February, being the anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln; the third Monday of February being celebrated as the anniversary of the birth of George Washington; the thirtieth day of May, commonly known as Memorial Day; the fourth of July, being the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; the first Monday in September, to be known as Labor Day; the second Monday of October, to be known as Columbus Day; the eleventh day of November, to be known as Veterans' Day; the fourth Thursday in November, to be known as Thanksgiving Day; the twenty-fifth day of December, commonly called  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] Christmas Day; the day on which any general election is held throughout the state; and any day designated by public proclamation of the chief executive of the state as a legal holiday.

            "If any of the above specified state legal holidays are also federal legal holidays but observed on different dates, only the state legal holidays shall be recognized as a paid legal holiday for employees of the state and its political subdivisions.

            "Whenever any legal holiday, other than Sunday, falls upon a Sunday, the following Monday shall be a legal holiday."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Manifestly, if the governor's action taken under this statute is to be labeled as unconstitutional, then, likewise, this label must also be attached to the statute itself.  If it is a violation of Article VIII, §§ 5 and 7 of the Constitution for the governor to proclaim a legal holiday in accordance with RCW 1.16.050, then by the same reasoning it would also follow that it was unconstitutional for the legislature to have passed the statute in the first place ‑ for obviously, the constitutionality of state action declaring a legal holiday is not dependent upon whether that action was taken by the legislature, on the one hand, or by the governor exercising authority granted to him by the legislature, on the other.

            It is our considered judgment, based upon the numerous decisions which have been rendered by our state supreme court over the years with respect to the two sections of the Constitution you have cited, that neither the underlying legislative act, in this case, nor the action of the governor taken thereunder, is inconstitutional.  Furthermore, even if we were to entertain any doubts on this question (which we do not), considerations of longstanding policy would preclude us from expressing them in an opinion such as this.  As explained in some detail in AGO 1971 No. 12 [[to Gordon L. Walgren, State Senator on March 16, 1971]], copy enclosed, this office has since statehood consistently followed a policy of presuming the constitutional validity of any duly enacted statute until such time as it is determined to be unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We trust that you will understand, and that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General