Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1975 No. 25 - Dec 30 1975
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Under RCW 29.13.050, which has impliedly amended the preexisting provisions of RCW 57.12.030, the term of office of a water district commissioner elected on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of an odd-numbered year is to begin as of noon on the second Monday in January following his election.

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                                                               December 30, 1975

Honorable Gordon Herr
State Senator, 31st District
10617 ‑ 21st S.W.
Seattle, Washington 98146

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1975 No. 25

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on the following question:

            "At what date does a newly elected commissioner of a water district take office?"

            We answer this question in the manner set forth in our analysis:


            As you have acknowledged in your letter, your question has arisen because of an apparent conflict between two statutes.  RCW 57.12.030, which relates, specifically, to election of commissioners of the water district, provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

            "Except as in this section otherwise provided, the term of office of each water district commissioner shall be six years, such term to be computedfrom the first day of December following his election,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and one such commissioner shall be elected at each biennial general election for the term of six years and until his successor has been elected and has qualified.  All candidates shall be voted upon by the entire water district."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            On the other hand, RCW 29.13.050, a part of the state election code, states that:

            "The term of every city, town, and district officer elected to office on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of the odd-numbered years shall begin as of noon on the second Monday in January following his election:  Provided, That school directors and any person elected to less than a full term shall assume office as soon as the election returns have been certified.

            ". . ."

            The solution to the problem raised by these two statutes, in our judgment, is to be reached through an application of certain rules which have been laid down by our court over the years with respect to statutory amendments by implication.  RCW 57.12.030,supra, insofar as that statute is quoted above, was enacted by § 1, chapter 50, Laws of 1945.  Conversely, RCW 29.13.050,supra, was enacted some eighteen years later as a part of a comprehensive updating of the state election code designed to establish overall uniformity with respect to the timing of state, county and other municipal elections.  See, chapter 200, Laws of 1963, § 8 of which contained the basic language now found in RCW 29.13.050,supra.  Previously, city and some district elections were conducted in March of each even-numbered year while other district elections (including those involving water districts) were held in conjunction with the state general elections which occur on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year.1/   Chapter 200,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] supra, however, set the stage for a uniform municipal election schedule under which all county, city and district elections (except those involving public utility districts or districts in which property ownership is a qualification for voting) are now to be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year.  Thus, the most recent water district election to which you have referred in your letter was held on November 4, 1975 whereas, had RCW 57.12.030, supra, been regarded as still being applicable on that question, the election would have been held in November of 1974 instead.

            It is most certainly true that statutory amendments or repeals by implication are not favored.  Tacoma v. Cavanaugh, 45 Wn.2d 500, 275 P.2d 933 (1954), and cases cited therein.  Nevertheless, as was also indicated in that case and others, they are quite within the realm of possibility.  As stated inAbel v. Diking & Drainage Imp. Dist., 19 Wn.2d 356, 363, 142 P.2d 1017 (1943) from which the court in Cavanaugh later quoted:

            "'"Repeals by implication are ordinarily not favored in law, and a later act will not operate to repeal an earlier act except in such instances where the later act covers the entire subject matter of the earlier legislation, is complete in itself, and is evidently intended to supersede the prior legislation on the subject, or unless the two acts are so clearly inconsistent with, and repugnant to, each other that they cannot, by a fair and reasonable construction, be reconciled and both given effect."'"

            Under the exception to this general rule against amendments or repeals by implication, a statute which is complete in itself covering the subject matter of an earlier statute in a manner partially or wholly inconsistent therewith constitutes an effective and valid amendment or repeal of such earlier enactment to the extent of that inconsistency.  In re Dietrick, 32 Wash. 471, 73 Pac. 506 (1903); Taylor v. Greenler, 54 Wn.2d 682, 344 P.2d 515 (1959); Mahler v. Tremper, 40 Wn.2d 405, 243 P.2d 627 (1952), and cases cited therein.  In the instant case, that rule, narrow as its scope may be, is, on the basis of the facts here involved, clearly applicable.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            First, there is without much question an irreconcilable conflict between RCW 57.12.030,supra, and RCW 29.13.050, supra, insofar as the date of commencement of water district commissioner's terms is concerned.  The first of these two statutes calls for such terms to commence on the first day of December following the election while the second (and more recent) statute provides, instead, for the commencement of such terms on the second Monday in January following the election (based upon the general applicability of RCW 29.13.020 to water districts as evidenced by the November 4, 1975, election which gave rise to your inquiry).

            Secondly, as we have indicated, the legislative act from which RCW 29.13.050,supra, originated was a comprehensive act, complete unto itself, restructuring and making uniform the time table for the election of county, city and district officers throughout the state.

            Therefore, even though this more recent, 1963, enactment did notexpressly amend RCW 57.12.030, supra, the affect of its passage was, in our judgment, the same as if such an express amendment had been contained therein.  Simply stated, under the law as it now exists the election of water district commissioners is no longer governed by the specific terms of RCW 57.12.030,supra, either as they purport to fix the date of such elections or to establish the date upon which the ensuing terms of office of the persons elected shall commence.  Instead, both of these issues are now governed by statutes contained in chapter 29.13 RCW.  Consistent with the time table which was followed in connection with the water district election you have noted in your letter, the time for such elections is now the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year as provided for by RCW 29.13.020.  And by the same token, the date of commencement of the ensuing terms of office is now the second Monday in January following the election, as provided for by RCW 29.13.050,supra, rather than the first day in December as specified in RCW 57.12.030, supra.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/But see, § 1, chapter 4, Laws of 1973, establishing a state general election on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year for the purpose of ballot measures and the filing of unexpired terms.