Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1951 No. 7 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Chapter 232, of the Laws of 1951, permits the State Finance Committee to pay to the seller a consideration for the purchase of state  warrants.  Such sum need not be paid to the General Fund.

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April 6, 1951

State Finance Committee
Olympia, Washington
Attention:  Mr. Ernest Minor,Secretary                                                                                       Cite as:AGO 51-53 No. 7


            This is in answer to your verbal request for our opinion as to  whether, under chapter 232, of the Laws of 1951, the State Finance  Committee is required to pay into the General Fund, the consideration for warrants purchased.

            It is our opinion that the Treasurer is not required to pay into the General Fund the amount of the purchase price for the warrants.


            Chapter 232, of the Laws of 1951, provides, in section 2:

"Whenever there is in any fund or in cash balances in the state treasury more than sufficient to meet the current expenditures properly payable therefrom, and over and above the amount belonging to the permanent school fund as shown by the separation made by the state treasurer, the state finance committee may invest such portion of such funds or balances over and above that belonging to the permanent school fund in warrants of the State of [Orig. Op. Page 2] Washington.  The state finance committee may purchase such state warrants at such prices and upon such terms as it may determine, and may sell them at such times and on such terms as it deems advisable.

            "Upon such investment being made, the state treasurer shall pay into the general fund the amount so invested, and the warrants so purchased shall be deposited with the state treasurer, who shall collect all interest and principal payments falling due thereon and allocate the same to the proper fund or funds." (Emphasis supplied)

            This section simply authorizes the State Finance Committee to purchase state warrants, at such prices and upon such terms as it may determine.  Obviously, in the purchase of warrants, a consideration must be paid to the seller.  We find no authority in the statutes for any one to draw warrants on the General Fund for sale.  Section 6 of the Chapter of the Laws of 1890, relating to the duties of the State Auditor, (Rem. Rev. Stat. 11002), provides:

            "The state auditor shall in no case issue any state warrant unless there is a law authorizing the issue of the same, and every warrant shall state the act under which it is drawn; and if any state auditor shall issue any state warrant not authorized by law, he shall forfeit and pay fourfold the amount of such order to the state, to be recovered by action against the auditor and his sureties on his official bond."

            The Auditor is the only official authorized by statute to draw warrants, and there is no law authorizing the drawing of warrants for the express purpose of sale.  Therefore, the Auditor has no authority to draw warrants for that purpose.  Since the General Fund cannot issue warrants for sale, there appears to be no occasion in which the purchase price for warrants bought by the State Finance Committee, can be paid into the General Fund.

            The provision in the second paragraph of section 2 is obviously inconsistent with the power given to the State Finance Committee to purchase state warrants at such prices, and upon such terms, as it may determine.

[Orig. Op. Page 3]

            Because of the inconsistency of the language of this statute, it must be regarded as ambiguous, and the intention of the Legislature must be sought from the whole act.

            In the case ofDenning v. Quist, 172 Wash. 83, 19 P. (2d) 656, our Supreme Court said:

            "It is a rule of statutory construction almost universal that it is the duty of the courts to give such construction to the language of the statute that will makeit purposeful and effective rather than futile and meaningless."

            Since the statute could not be carried out because of repugnancy if the language requiring the consideration to be paid into the General Fund were enforced, the application of such language would make the statute futile and meaningless, and such a construction should be avoided.

            InState ex rel. Chamberlain v. Daniels, 17 Wash. 111, our Supreme Court adopted the following language from Sutherland's  Statutory Construction:

            "Where words conflict with each other, where the different clauses of the instrument bear upon each other and would be inconsistent unless the natural and common import of the words be varied, construction becomes necessary * * *."

[Orig. Op. Page 3]

            "The practical inquiry is usually what a particular provision, clause, or word, means.  To answer it one must proceed as he would with any other compositions ‑ construe it with reference to the leading idea or purpose of the whole instrument.  The whole and every part must be considered.  The general intent should be kept in view in determining the scope and meaning of any part.  This survey and comparison are necessary to ascertain the purpose of the act and to make all the parts harmonious.   They are brought into accord, if practicable, and thus, if possible, give a sensible and intelligible effect to each in furtherance of the general design.  A statute should be so construed as a whole, and its several parts, as  most  reasonably to accomplish the legislative purpose.  If [Orig. Op. Page 4] practicable, effect must be given to all language employed and inconsistent expressions are to be harmonized to reach the real intent of the Legislature * * *.

            "The presumption is that the law maker has a definite purpose in every enactment and has adopted and formulated the subsidiary provisions in harmony with that purpose."

            Following these principles of statutory construction we believe it is obvious that the purpose of the Legislature was to permit the purchase by the State Finance Committee of state warrants.  This necessarily implies payment to the person from whom the purchase is made, and since the provision relative to payment of the money into the General Fund cannot be applied, it must yield to the general purpose of the statute.

            It is our opinion that the language requiring payment into the General Fund was inadvertently used, and creates an ambiguity in the statute.

            It is, therefore, our opinion that the language providing that the Treasurer shall pay the amount into the General Fund should be disregarded.  Payment may be made to the seller of the warrants.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General