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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 6340

January 31, 1986


Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4--Const 1963, art 11, Sec. 2--transitional change in date of commencement of term of office of county treasurer


Date of commencement of term of office of county treasurer in counties with a population of 1,000,000 or more

The four-year term requirement for county officers set forth in Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4, would not be violated if the Legislature were to enact brief transitional changes in the starting date of the term of office of county treasurer in a county having a population of 1,000,000 or more.

Honorable Willis C. Bullard, Jr.

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Mi 48909

You have requested my opinion with respect to a question regarding the term of office of the Oakland County treasurer which may be stated as follows:

Would proposed House Bill 4890, which would establish the commencement of the next term of office for the Oakland County treasurer on January 1, 1989 (rather than July 1, 1989), be in violation of the requirement for a four-year term for that office under Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4?

Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4, provides for a four-year term for the office of county treasurer rather than the two-year term specified in Michigan's three prior constitutions:

'There shall be elected for four-year terms in each organized county . . . a county treasurer . . . whose duties and powers shall be provided by law . . ..'

Pursuant to Const 1963, art 11, Sec. 2, the terms of county offices are to begin on the January 1 after election unless otherwise provided by law:

'The terms of office of county officers shall begin on the first day of January next succeeding their election, except as otherwise provided by law.'

House Bill 4890 would amend MCL 168.203; MSA 6.1203, as follows:

'The term of office of the county clerk, county treasurer, register of deeds, prosecuting attorney, sheriff, drain commissioner, AND surveyor shall begin on January 1 next following the election, and continues until a successor is elected and qualified, except that in counties having a population of 2,000,000 or more the term of office of the county treasurer shall begin on July 1 next following the election.'

The current statutory provision requiring a July 1 starting date for the term of office of a county treasurer in a county with a population of 1,000,000 or more can be traced back to 1895 LA 294. That local act designated such a commencement date for the term of office of the Wayne County treasurer. In upholding the constitutionality of the Legislature's changing the commencement date of the treasurer's term of office in Wayne County from January 1 to July 1, in Hunt, ex rel Snow v Buhrer, 133 Mich 107, 115; 94 NW 589 (1903), the court noted the rationale for the July 1 commencement date:

"Any one familiar with the business of the treasurer's office at the time of the passage of the act, and with the difficulty of the payment of the taxes of Detroit before the 1st day of January under the then existing circumstances, can readily appreciate the inconvenience of turning over the office to a new official at such a time."

The Supreme Court did not decide whether the Legislature was constitutionally authorized to extend the term of the 1895-1896 Wayne County treasurer for six months until July 1, 1897, indicating that, while the extension of the term was of extremely doubtful validity, it was unnecessary to the determination of this case which involved a proceeding in the nature of quo warranto on behalf of the person who won the election for the office of Wayne County treasurer in November, 1902 against the incumbent treasurer whose term under 1895 PA 294 expired on June 30, 1903 (rather than December 30, 1902).

As background to your question, you indicate that the current Oakland County treasurer held office from January 1, 1981 to December 31, 1984 and was reelected in the November, 1984 election. On November 16, 1984, the Department of Corporation Counsel for Oakland County advised the county treasurer that since Oakland County had reached a population of 1,000,000 or more, the next term of office for the county treasurer would begin on July 1, 1985 and that the treasurer would hold over in office during the period from July 1, 1985 to June 30, 1985, until the commencement of the new term. This holding-over period was the result of Oakland County making the transition, due to its increased population, to the new term of office (July 1, 1985-June 30, 1989) required by MCL 168.203; MSA 6.1203.

It is a fundamental rule of construction that the Constitution must be read as a whole and each provision harmonized to give effect to all provisions. Saginaw County v State Tax Commission, 54 Mich App 160; 220 NW2d 706 (1974), aff'd sub nom Emmet County v State Tax Commission, 397 Mich 550; 244 NW2d 909 (1976); 6 Michigan Law & Practice, Constitutional Law, Sec. 24, pp 41-44.

The authority given to the Legislature in Const 1963, art 11, Sec. 2, to set the commencement date of county offices at times other than January 1 implies an authority for the Legislature to set starting dates for office terms which may in transitional circumstances result in those terms being somewhat longer than, or shorter than, four-year terms for county offices set forth in Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4. For example, if the population of a county having 1,000,000 or more were to drop to less than 1,000,000, the requirements of MCL 168.203; MSA 6.1203, specify that the newly-elected treasurer will take office on the January 1 following election, thereby resulting in the incumbent treasurer of a county with a declining population having served a term of three and one-half years.

Since Const 1963, art 11, Sec. 2, authorizes the Legislature to designate the starting dates of county offices, it is my opinion that the four-year-term requirement in Const 1963, art 7, Sec. 4, would not be violated by the brief transitional changes resulting from enactment of legislation such as House Bill 4890.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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