Attorney General's Office defines what 'within available funds' means
Earlier this year State Auditor candidate Rep. Mark Miloscia (D) and Secretary of State candidate Sen. Jim Kastama (D) asked the Attorney General's Office to review the decision by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to advise agencies to not comply with a state requirement to undergo a quality management assessment.
In a press release Rep. Miloscia charged:
The OFM memo also flagrantly violates the will of the Legislature as expressed on the last day of the 2012 session, Miloscia said.
In the final hours of the 2012 Legislative Session, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly by bipartisan acclamation for a Miloscia budget amendment that deleted an attempt to suspend the audit requirement during this biennium. The governor’s office had pushed for the proposed audit suspension.
Rep. Miloscia's budget amendment to restore the requirement for agencies to conduct the quality assessments passed on a voice vote. Here is video of the floor debate on the amendment:
We noted the AGO opinion could have huge implications going forward. Since 2005, 44 bills have been signed into law with the phrase "within available funds." An additional 67 bills have been enacted during that time period with the phrase "within available resources" (there may be overlap between these bills).
Yesterday the AGO responded saying:
RCW 43.17.385 requires each state agency to develop and implement a quality management program 'within available funds.' This includes a provision calling for an independent assessment of each agency's quality management system. RCW 43.17.390. The legislature's inclusion of the phrase 'within available funds' in RCW 43.17.385 adds a condition to language that would, in its absence, simply direct state agencies to take action. As a result, an agency is directed to contract for independent assessments of its quality management system only if it determines that funds are 'available' for that purpose.
The lesson for lawmakers going forward: If you want an agency to do something within the funding already provided say "Just Do It" without any qualifying language. Call it the Nike guide to bill drafting.