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March 19, 1971
Mrs. Maxine E. Daly, Commissioner
Employment Security Department
P. O. Box 367
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 46 (not official)
Re: Interpretation of Retrospective
Language in Chapter 1, Laws of 1971
Dear Mrs. Daly:
The United States Department of Labor has requested that you obtain a clarifying opinion from this office on the legal effect of the language of Chapter 1, Laws of 1971, specifically sections 2 and 8, which provide for retrospective operation of the conformity provisions of that law. The question arises because section 11 of that act declares an effective date which has been determined to be January 17, 1971.
Section 2 of the Act, in defining the term "extended benefit period" declares that
". . . as there was a state "on" indicator for the week which was three weeks prior to October 11, 1970, an extended benefit period began on that date."
Likewise, section 8 provides that
". . . Benefits paid under the provisions of RCW 50.20.127 for weeks beginning on and after October 11, 1970, and prior to the effective date of this 1971 amendatory act, shall be considered as extended benefits paid under this act to the extent that such benefits would have been payable had this act been in effect at the time such benefits were paid. The commissioner shall establish a total extended benefit amount pursuant to this act for each individual who receives benefits under RCW 50.20.127 with respect to weeks of unemployment beginning on and after October 11, 1970, and shall reduce such total extended benefit amount by the aggregate amount of benefits paid to each such individual under RCW 50.20.127 with respect to weeks of unemployment beginning on and after October 11, 1970, which would have been payable to such individual under this act had it been in effect at the time such payments were made: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That this provision shall not be interpreted [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "as granting retroactive benefits for weeks of unemployment which were not claimed under the provisions of RCW 50.20.127."
Section 11 provides
"NEW SECTION. Sec. 11. This 1971 amendatory act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, the support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and shall take effect on the Sunday following the day on which the governor signs this enactment."
Approaching the question presented from the standpoint of statutory interpretation, we would view sections 2 and 8, supra, as establishing an "operative date" and section 11 as an "effective date" provision; the two dates may differ. See Callahan v. City and County of San Francisco, 68 C.A.2d 286 [[68 Cal.App.2d 286]], 156 P.2d 479 (1945). Although that case dealt with a prospective statute, rather than a retrospective one as here, the principle therein enunciated is applicable to the present situation as well. The mere fact that a particular statute becomes effective on a certain date ‑ e.g., when signed by the governor, or a certain number of days after adjournment of the session at which enacted ‑ does not necessarily mean that this is also the date upon which the statute becomes operative, where a contrary legislative intent is expressed. Here, sections 2 and 8 of the Act, supra, express a clear intent that the conforming provisions of Chapter 1, Laws of 1971 are to be deemed to operate as of October 11, 1970. Section 11 cannot have the effect of vitiating that language. Were we to so hold, we would render the retrospective language meaningless, thus violating a primary rule of statutory construction, to wit:
". . . A statute should be construed so that effect is given to all its provisions, so that no part will be inoperative or superfluous, void or insignificant, and so that one section will not destroy another unless the provision is the result of obvious mistake or error." Sutherland Statutory Construction, 3rd Edition, Vol. 2, p. 399, Sec. 4705.
We recognize the general rule that legislation will ordinarily be interpreted to apply prospectively; however, that rule does not apply when the legislature expresses a clear intent that the legislation operate retroactively. Sorenson v. Western Hotels, Inc., 55 Wn.2d 625, 349 P.2d 232.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
By way of background to this particular act, the previous state extended benefit legislation, section 23, Chapter 2, Laws of 1970 ex. sess. (RCW 50.20.127), was determined not to meet the conformity requirements contained in Title II of the "Employment Security Amendments of 1970" (PL 91-373). Thus, the state of Washington could not obtain federal sharing of extended benefit costs under the federal act until it had enacted legislation in technical compliance with the federal law.
The initial legislation submitted at the request of the Governor, S.B. 58, did not have retrospective language. During consideration by the legislature, the Employment Security Department was informed that the solicitor's office of the United States Department of Labor had issued an opinion to the effect that conforming legislation could be made retroactive to October 11, 1970, for the purpose of federal sharing of extended benefits. The language of Chapter 1, Laws of 1971 was drafted by the Employment Security Department and provided to the legislature at its request.
Chapter 1, Laws of 1971, was enacted for the purpose of achieving conformity with Title II of the "Employment Security Amendments of 1970". The retrospective language was inserted for the purpose of obtaining federal sharing of extended benefits paid out by the state for weeks commencing on and after October 11, 1970.
Based upon the foregoing, we conclude that the legislature of the state of Washington intended that the conforming provisions of Chapter 1, Laws of 1971, are to be given a retrospective operative effect to the week beginning October 11, 1970; and we further conclude that the legislature manifested this intent by the express language of that enactment.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance.
Very truly yours,
JOSEPH M. LITTLEMORE
Assistant Attorney General