Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1975 No. 21 - Mar 5 1975
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Those state senators elected in 1972 for four-year terms ending in January, 1977, will not be eligible to receive the pay increases provided for by Initiative No. 282 until the commencement of their next ensuing terms of office in 1977.

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                                                                   March 5, 1975

Honorable Sid Snyder
Secretary of the Senate
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 21

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter inquiring as to whether the hold-over members of the state senate may now be paid, during the remainder of their current terms of office, at the increased annual salary level provided for by Initiative No. 282.  For the reasons set forth in our analysis we answer this question in the negative.


            By your reference to "hold-over" members of the senate we understand you to mean those members who are currently serving the unexpired portions of four-year senatorial terms which commenced in January, 1973, prior to the passage of Initiative No. 282 at the November, 1973, state general election.  The question is whether, in view of the fact that the subject $3800 per annum salary figure was established by that initiative rather than by an act of the legislature itself, those senators can currently be paid at this higher salary figure (as opposed to the $3600 per year salary provided for by prior law) notwithstanding the prohibition contained in Article XXX, § 1 of the state constitution against mid-term salary increases for those state officers who fix their own compensation.1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   In response to this question it is our position ‑ a position which we also communicated verbally to the chief clerk of the house of representatives a year ago when he posed the same question ‑ that the salary increases provided for by the subject initiative for members of the legislature do not go into effect until the commencement of the terms of office of the affected legislators next following its approval by the voters, i.e., for all members of the house of representatives and for those senators currently serving new terms which began in January of this year, the terms which they are now serving ‑ but in the case of those other senators to which your question refers, not until the terms which will commence in January of 1977.  Accord, the official explanatory statement of Initiative No. 282 which this office prepared for the 1973 state voters' pamphlet in accordance with RCW 29.81.020.

            That statement, as it appeared on page 7 of that pamphlet, described the effect of Initiative No. 282, if approved into law as follows:

            "The proposed act would take effect in December, 1973, and would replace the salary increases provided for by the 1973 legislature with an increase of approximately 5.5% over the 1965 levels for state elected officials (including legislators) and the same 5.5% increase over the authorized 1972 salary levels for judges.  Salary increases for legislators would not take effect until the beginning of their next term of office."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The legal rationale for this explanation stems from the opening paragraph of § 1 of the initiative.  After providing that the salary increases for state elected officials which were to be established through its adoption should generally take effect on January 1, 1974, this opening paragraph then contained the following qualifying proviso:

            ". . .  PROVIDED, That such increases for legislators shall not take effect until the first date permitted by the Constitution of this state . . ."

            This same proviso was also contained in § 110, chapter 137, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., the section of the general state appropriations act for the 1973-75 biennium (also providing for salary increases) which the initiative was designed to amend.  As thus originally  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] expressed by the legislature itself, it seems apparent that the proviso was intended to acknowledge and give effect to the fact that Article XXX, § 1 of the constitution, although now permitting mid-term pay increases for other public officials, continues to bar such increases for those officials who fix their own salaries.

            In effect, the original legislative enactment thus was intended to provide for salary increases for the various other state elected officials enumerated therein as of January 1, 1974, and for similar increases for legislators as of the first day of their next ensuing terms of office following the terms they were serving at the time of its passage.  Conceivably, the drafters of the initiative could, constitutionally, have deleted the proviso by which the legislature manifested the second aspect of that intent and, thereby, have caused all of the salary increases which they were proposing to take effect at the same time.  From a policy standpoint it is, indeed, arguable as you have suggested in your letter that the ban of Article XXX, § 1, supra, against mid-term increases for those officers ". . . who . . . fix their own compensation . . ." is only applicable in those cases in which a pay raise is, in fact, provided for in that manner.  Accord, AGO 1974 No. 9 [[to Smith Troy, Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County on April 10, 1974]], copy enclosed, in which we distinguished between those pay raises for county commissioners which are provided for by the legislature and those raises which are accomplished by the commissioners themselves under the authority which has been delegated to them by chapter 88, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., implementing Amendment 57 to the state constitution.

            From this it would follow that a mid-term salary increase could be granted to the legislature by the people through the initiative process even though such an increase might not be provided for by the legislature itself.  But this is a question which we need not here decide.  In the case of Initiative No. 282, the drafters did not purport to so provide but, instead, they retained the qualifying proviso by which the legislature had implicitly acknowledged the applicability of the subject constitutional prohibition to its own act.  Therefore, in preparing the official explanation of the initiative for the voters' pamphlet this office deduced that their intent, on that count, was the same as that of the legislature; and armed with this information, the voters then proceeded to approve the initiative at the following election.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]   To this we would only add, in closing, a reference to such cases as Department of Revenue v. Hoppe, 82 Wn.2d 549, 512 P.2d 1094 (1973), in which our court has repeatedly held that material in the official voters' pamphlet may be considered in determining the purpose and intent of an initiative or other ballot proposition.  Here, with the voters having approved of Initiative No. 282 with the attorney general's official explanation presumptively in mind, it seems highly likely that the court, if presented with the question, would hold that the voters intended the result which they were thus told would occur if a majority of them voted in favor of this particular initiative.

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/" The compensation of all elective and appointive state, county, and municipal officers who do not fix their own compensation, including judges of courts of record and the justice courts may be increased during their terms of office to the end that such officers and judges shall each severally receive compensation for their services in accordance with the law in effect at the time the services are being rendered."  (Emphasis supplied.)