Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1970 No. 17 - Feb 5 1970
Attorney General Slade Gorton

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                                                 February 5, 1970
Honorable Thomas L. Copeland
State Representative, District 11-B
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98501
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 17
Dear Representative Copeland:
            This will respond to your recent inquiry posing certain questions about succession to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  We paraphrase and restate your questions as follows:
            (1) When the speaker resigns from the legislature, by what method is his position filled?
            (2) In a situation where the speaker pro tem succeeds to the speaker's position, does he assume all the duties and powers of the speaker?
            (3) What is the position of the new speaker in so far as the legislative council is concerned where the former speaker was a member of the executive committee and chairman of the legislative council?
            Question (1):
            If the speaker resigns while the legislature is in session, the house may elect a successor; however, should it not do so, the speaker pro tem would become speaker.
            Rule 2, Rules of the House of Representatives (1969 session) provides as follows:
            "The house shall elect the following officers at the commencement of each regular session:  Its presiding officer, who shall be styled speaker of the house, a speaker pro tempore, who shall serve in absence or in case of the inability of the speaker, a chief clerk of the house, and a sergeant at arms.  An assistant chief clerk may be elected on any legislative day.  Such officers shall hold office during all sessions until the convening of the succeeding regular session.  . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)   [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] Rule 3 (1), Rules of the House of Representatives
            (1969 session) provides:
            "The speaker pro tempore shall exercise the duties, powers and prerogatives of the speaker in the event of his death, illness, or inability to act, until the speaker's successor shall be elected."
            Question (2):
            Where the house does not elect a new speaker, the speaker pro tem succeeds to the job and assumes all the duties, powers and prerogatives of the position as indicated in Rule 3 (1) set out above.  Included in such succession would be service on any committees, commissions or boards upon which the speaker serves pursuant to statute or regulation.
            With particular reference to the legislative council, these duties, powers and prerogatives would include membership thereon, pursuant to RCW 44.24.010, which provides:
            "There is hereby created a 'state legislative council' hereinafter referred to as the council, which shall consist of fifteen senators and sixteen representatives from the legislature of the state of Washington, including the president pro tem of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives, . . ."
            Question (3):
            Where the former speaker had been a member of the executive committee and chairman of the council, his resignation from the legislature will create vacancies in these positions.  However, the new speaker (including the speaker pro tem if no new speaker is elected) will not automatically succeed to these positions.
            The legislative council is created by statute (chapter 24.44 RCW) and is empowered to adopt its own rules.  These rules make no provision for the selection of a chairman; they do however state:
            "Except as expressly provided by legislative act, or as modified by other specific rules herein set forth, the Council as a whole shall be governed by Reed's Parliamentary Rules."  (Rule 12A, Legislative Council Rules of Procedure.)
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            As expressed in Reed, the body chooses its own leadership.  As in the house they may elect a new chairman or allow the vice chairman to preside.  However, there must be a vice chairman of the legislative council in order to comply with its rules.
            "Chairman, vice chairman, secretary, and three additional members selected by the chairman, vice chairman and secretary with advice from each party caucus, and so selected as to provide equal representation from both political parties and both houses, shall act as an executive committee.  The executive committee may authorize employment of employees and fixing of salaries pending the next regular Council meeting, at which meeting such employment and salaries shall be confirmed by the Council or terminated."  (Rule 13, Legislative Council Rules of Procedure.)

            This rule appears a mandate to maintain equal representation from both parties and from both houses on the executive committee.  Hence, after the resignation of the chairman, the council itself determines the make‑up of the executive committee provided it must have six members including a chairman, vice chairman and secretary and that the successor to the departed member be of the same party and the same house.
            Furthermore, if the new speaker (including the speaker pro tem, as above) was already a member of the council, the effect of the resignation of the old speaker from the legislature will be to create a vacancy on the council itself ‑ which must be filled by the remaining house members of the council in accordance with RCW
            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General
Chief Deputy Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/See, Appendix "A" attached.
            APPENDIX "A"
            RCW 44.24.070 provides:
            "The state legislative council shall have authority to make its own rules and regulations governing the conduct of its business not otherwise prescribed in this chapter.  The term of office of all council members shall be from the time of confirmation or election until (1) their successors have been appointed and confirmed or elected as provided in RCW 44.24.010, or until they cease to be members of the legislature.  Vacancies on the council among the senate members of the council may be filled by appointment by the remaining senate members.  Vacancies on the council among the members of the house of representatives may be filled by appointment by the remaining house members.  All such vacancies shall be filled from the same political party as that of the member whose seat was vacated.  The council may appoint not more than twelve additional legislators as special members in the same ratio as membership of the respective parties in the house and senate, to serve on council committees for designated periods of time, and such special members shall be entitled to reimbursement on the same basis as council members for expenses incurred while on council business.  All of the minutes, records, and files of the council shall be delivered over by the council to the speaker of the house of representatives or to the president of the senate at the convening of each regular or special session of the legislature, which minutes, records, and files shall be held subject to the order of the senate and house of representatives, and shall thereafter be redelivered to the members of the council forthwith, but in no event later than five days after adjournment sine die of the legislature."