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Washington Legislative History

Outlines basic procedures for conducting legislative history research in Washington state.

State Measures

Most laws are passed by the state legislature as legislation, which are then signed by the governor into law. In Washington, there are three exceptions to this general procedure, known as “popular legislation.”

  • Initiatives to the People are proposals put on the ballot by popular demand (petitions) to be ratified by popular vote. When passed by the voters, initiatives become law in 30 days and are codified in the RCW.

  • Initiatives to the Legislature similarly originate with the people but, when passed, are sent directly to the Washington State Legislature for action.

  • Referendum Bills originate in the Washington State Legislature, which send the measure to the people for ratification at the polls.

All three types of popular legislation, once adopted, are published in the following year's Laws of Washington. Since popular legislation becomes law within 30 days after Election Day (long after the year's legislative session has expired) it will be entered in the first chapters of the next year's session laws, and later codified into the RCW.

Chastek Library, Gonzaga University School of Law | 721 N. Cincinnati St. Spokane, WA 99220-3528 | 509.313.3758