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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1965 No. 52 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The election requirements of § 5, chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., are not satisfied by a township election authorizing a property tax levy when said election was held prior to the effective date of the statute.

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                                                               November 22, 1965

Honorable George A. Kain
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County Court House
Spokane, Washington 99201

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 52

Dear Sir:

            By a previously acknowledged letter you have requested our opinion on a question which may be stated as follows:

            Are the election requirements of § 5, chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., satisfied by a township election authorizing a property tax levy when such election was held prior to the effective date of the statute?

            We answer your question in the negative.


            It appears from the factual background contained in your letter that several townships in Spokane county, for reasons not material here, did not have property tax levies in 1964 for township expenses and as a result obtained no revenue from such source in 1965.

            The annual township meeting is required by RCW 45.12.070 to be held on the second Tuesday in January.  It was at the annual meeting held in January, 1965, that the electors of the township voted to obtain tax revenue in 1966, by a levy to be made in 1965.

            Chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., became law in May, 1965.  This act places a ceiling on the amount of property tax revenue which can be obtained by a taxing district in any one year.  Such district, with certain exceptions, can have property tax revenue in the current year only in an  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] amount which does not exceed the tax revenue received in the preceding year.  See, AGO 65-66 No. 45 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, King County on October 8, 1965]], copy enclosed.

            If tax revenue is to be increased over the preceding year such increase can be had as provided in § 5, of the act, which reads:

            "Notwithstanding the limitations set forth in sections 2, 3, and 4 of this act, the regular property tax revenues of a district may be increased, subject to the limitations of the provisions of Article VII, section 2, of the Constitution of the state of Washington and RCW 84.52.050, by a proposition approved by a majority of the voters of the taxing district voting on the proposition at a general election held within the taxing district, or at a special election of the taxing district held at the time of a state general election, or at the time of a general election of a city or town in which said taxing district is wholly included.  The proposition so voted on shall also state the estimated millage rate proposed.  Thereafter the new amount fixed at such election shall be used to compute the maximum amount permitted as such taxing district's regular property tax revenue as provided in section 2 unless such increase is limited for a specified number of years or such amount is subsequently increased or decreased pursuant to this section."

            The townships in question are taxing districts within the purview of chapter 174, and as township officers are elected at each annual meeting such meeting qualifies as the general election of the district.  State ex rel. Rummens v. Superior Court, 160 Wash. 520, 295 Pac. 730 (1931).

            Even if it be assumed that the wording of the proposition voted on at the township meeting meets the requirements of § 5, supra, it has been held that an election held prior to the effective date of a statute authorizing such election is a nullity.  People v. Johnston, 6 Cal. 674 (1856); Arkansas v. Little Rock, Mississippi Etc. Railroad Co., 31 Ark. 701 (1877);Santa Cruz Water Co. v. Kron, 74 Cal. 223, 15 Pac. 772 (1887).

            A statute has no force until it takes effect and until that time it is inoperative for any purpose so that all acts  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] purporting to have been under it prior to its effective date are void.  State ex rel. Thorp v. Devin, 26 Wn.2d 333, 173 P.2d 994 (1946); Kennelly v. Lowery, 64 Cal.App.2d 903, 149 P.2d 476 (1944).

            While the township election was held under authority of law (RCW 45.56.030) it obviously could not have been intended to accomplish the object of § 5, chapter 174, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., which was not in existence at that time.  In so far as § 5 is concerned the election was of no effect and cannot be said to now permit an increase in the regular property tax revenue of the township.  Such increase can be accomplished only by an election held under the authority of and pursuant to § 5.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General