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AGO 1950 No. 266 - May 01, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


Municipal bond issues may be placed on ballots only once in a calendar year.

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                                                                    May 1, 1950

Honorable Patrick M. Steele
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 266

Attention:  V. H. Honeywell, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your letter of April 20, 1950, requesting our opinion on the following question:

            "May a municipal bond issue proposition, defeated in a March election, be placed on the ballot in November?"

            Our conclusion is as follows:

            A municipal bond issue proposition may be submitted to the voters only once in a calendar year.


            Your letter refers to the case of Sims v. Bremerton, 190 Wash. 62, 66 P. (2d), 867, wherein the court held that elections for special municipal levies authorized by section 1, chapter 253, Laws of 1945 (Rem. Supp. 1945, § 11238-1e), could be held any time during the fiscal year, preceding the October levy, without reference to the calendar year.  You suggest that, because of different wording in the same section, elections for bond issue propositions might be controlled by a different rule.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The frequency of special levy elections is governed as follows:

            "* * * at a special election to be held in the year in which the levy is made, and not oftener than once in such year."

            Another portion of section 11238-1e limits bond issue elections quite differently:

            "Provided, That such elections shall not be held oftener than once a year."

            The court in theSims case recognized the general rule that the word "year" in a statute usually means "calendar year".  Beginning on page 63 the court states:

            "Ordinarily the term 'year' when used in a statute, is presumed to refer to the calendar year.  Virginia-Carolina Chemical Co. v. Wellbrock, 143 S. Ct. 51, 141 S.E. 103.  But if the context in which it is used indicates that the legislative intent was otherwise, the term may be construed to mean 'fiscal year,' a period of three hundred sixty-five days, or twelve months."  (Citing cases)

            The reasons given by the court for departing from the general rule are stated on page 66 as follows:

            "Now, considering the term 'in the year' in the light of its context in the initiative and in the light of other statutes to which we shall advert, we think it is clear, for at least two reasons, that the word was not intended to refer to the calendar year.  First, construed as meaning the calendar year, the period within which the election might be held would not amount to a year at all, but a period of somewhat less than nine months; second, cities of the third and fourth classes are required to hold their municipal elections on the 'first Tuesday after the first Monday in December,' (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 9165 [P.C.  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] § 827]) while cities of the second class are required to hold their elections 'on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of April.'  (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 9009 [P.C. § 717]).

            "It will be readily seen that, to construe the word 'year,' as used in initiative No. 94, as meaning the 'calendar year,' would not only place third and fourth class cities in a position of gross inequality with second class cities in respect to holding elections permitted by the proviso, but would be subversive (in so far as it affects third and fourth class cities) of the primary purpose of the act, namely, economy in governmental affairs.  For, to hold that the word means 'calendar year' would prevent third and fourth class cities calling a special election, under the proviso, to be held concurrently with the regular municipal election.  In other words, in order to avail themselves of the privilege reserved in the proviso, third and fourth class cities would be compelled to hold special elections, at great additional expense, between January 1st and October 1st in the 'calendar year' in which the levy is to be made, while cities of the second class could, at little additional expense, avail themselves of the privilege reserved in the proviso by holding special elections at the time of the regular municipal election."

            Following theSims case, the legislature submitted, and the people adopted, the 1943 forty mill amendment, adding Section 2 to Article VII of the State Constitution, pursuant to which section 11238-1e was enacted.  The amendment makes a clear distinction between the frequency of special levies and bond issues.  As to special levy elections Article VII, Section 2, reads as follows:

            "* * * submitted not more than twelve months prior to the date on which the proposed levy is to be made and no oftener than twice in such twelve month period, * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            As to bond issue elections, Article VII, Section 2, states:

            "* * * submitted not oftener than twice in such calendar year, * * *"

            In light of the above quoted language, we must conclude that the legislature recognized the different considerations applicable to bond issue elections and did not intend that they be governed by the Sims rule.

            It is our opinion, therefore, that a bond issue election authorized by Section 11238-1e may be held only once during a calendar year.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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