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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1974 No. 19 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Senate Joint Resolution No. 113, proposing a new judicial article to the state Constitution, may be submitted to the voters as a single amendment to the state Constitution.

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                                                                 February 5, 1974

Honorable Jonathan Whetzel
State Senator, 43rd District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 19

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on whether Substitute Senate Joint Resolution No. 113, currently pending before the legislature, may be submitted to the voters as a single amendment to the state Constitution under so much of Article XXIII, § 1 of the Constitution as provides that:

            ". . . if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such a manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately. . . ."

            We respond to this question in the manner set forth in the following analysis.


            In most basic terms, Substitute Senate Joint Resolution No. 113 proposes to repeal Article IV of the Washington State Constitution, commonly known as the "Judicial Article," in its entirety ‑ along with Amendments 25, 28, 38, 41 and 50 ‑ and to replace all of these provisions with a new, 20 section, article covering the state judicial system.

            In considering your question we turn to an earlier opinion of this office dated October 18, 1968, to the Legislative Council, in which we reviewed and analyzed a number of decided cases from other jurisdictions involving assertedly multiple constitutional amendments under state constitutional provisions similar to our own Article XXIII, § 1, supra.  In addition, we also there noted and discussed the Washington case ofGottstein v. Lister, 88 Wash. 462, 153 Pac. 595 (1915), in which our own state supreme court, in a case  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] involving Article XXIII, § 1, itself, rejected a contention that Amendment 7 to the Washington Constitution, as adopted in 1912 and providing for the inititative and referendum, was defective because of an alleged multiplicity of subjects.  Based upon these decisions, we then advised as follows:

            "(1)  As long as there is no evidence on the part of the legislature of 'log rolling' or some attempt to deceive the voters as to what they are being asked to vote upon, the question of whether a particular proposition contains only one, or more than one, amendment will probably turn on the finding of some reasonable relationship between the various propositions.  The Washington court, by virtue of its decision in Gottstein v. Lister, 88 Wash. 462, 153 Pac. 595 (1915), seems committed to the rather liberal rule enunciated in State ex rel. Hudd v. Timme, Secretary of State, 54 Wisc. 318, 11 N.W. 785 (1882), that so long as a proposed amendment contains but a single subject and has but a single object, it is permissible to include provisions in one amendment which, physically, could be separated ‑ contra, the strict view represented by such cases as Mathews v. Turner, 212 Iowa 424, 236 N.W. 412 (1931);

            "(2) The fact that a proposed amendment may 'impliedly amend' more than one existing section of the constitution will not militate against a finding that the proposal contains only one amendment."

            Accord,State ex rel. Hudd v. Timme, Secretary of State, 54 Wisc. 318, 11 N.W. 785 (1882), cited with approval by the Washington court inGottstein, in which the Wisconsin court, in analyzing an amendatory article of that state's Constitution which is identical to our Article XXIII, § 1,supra, held that:

            ". . .

            ". . .  In order to constitute more than one amendment, the propositions submitted must relate to more than one subject, and have at least two distinct and separate purposes not dependent upon or connected with each other. . . ."

            Later, by a letter dated February 25, 1969, to then State Representative Mary Ellen McCaffree, we specifically listed  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] a number of previously adopted amendments to the Washington Constitution which had been submitted to the voters as "single amendments," and approved by them without legal challenge, even though they affected more than one section of the Constitution as it existed at the time of submission to the voters.  These included:

            "Amendment 14, relating to taxation, which repealed §§ 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Article VII of the original state Constitution.

            "Amendment 20, authorizing the legislature to fix the compensation of state elected officials, including legislators, which amended §§ 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of Article III of the original state Constitution, together with § 23 of Article II.

            "Amendment 28, relating to the monetary jursidiction of superior courts and justices of the peace, which expressly amended both § 6 and § 10 of Article IV of the original state Constitution.

            "Amendment 39, relating to governmental continuity in the event of emergency, which affected §§ 1 and 2 of Article XIV; §§ 8, 15 and 22 of Article II; §§ 10, 13 and 24 of Article III; and §§ 2 and 6 of Article XI.

            "Amendment 47, authorizing real property tax exemptions for retired persons, which affected both §§ 1 and 2 of Article VII (i.e., Amendments 14 and 17).

            "Amendment 49, relating to the investment of pension funds, which eliminated the applicability of §§ 5 and 7 of Article VIII and § 9 of Article XII to such investments.

            "Amendment 54, authorizing mid-term pay raises for certain elected officials, which repealed, to the extent inconsistent therewith, § 25 of Article II; § 25 of Article III, § 13 of Article IV; § 8 of Article XI; and § 1 of Article XXVIII."

            Thus, the fact that Substitute Joint Resolution No. 113 proposes to repeal a number of existing sections of the state Constitution and to replace them with a somewhat lesser number of  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] new sections comprising a new "Judicial Article" does not, by and of itself mean that this proposal must be divided and submitted to the voters as separate amendments in order to meet the requirements of Article XXIII, § 1,supra.  Moreover, in view of the rather obvious unity of all 20 sections of this proposed amendment we would not expect the Washington Supreme Court, particularly in view of its statements and holding in Gottstein v. Lister,supra, to hold its submission to the voters as a single amendment to be defective.

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General