William O. Douglas Betty Bowen Carl Maxey Chief Joseph Bertha Landes Buffalo Soldier Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6808 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

The Washington House of Representatives votes to restrict pay toilets on April 19, 1977.

HistoryLink.org Essay 8514 : Printer-Friendly Format

On April 19, 1977, the state House of Representatives approves, by a margin of 81 to 13, a bill that will ensure Washingtonians do not need to pay to use public toilets. Although originally introduced and generally referred to as a ban on pay toilets, the bill does not outright prohibit pay toilets. Instead, it requires that at least half of all toilets in any public restroom must be free – and that there must be "proportionate equality of free toilet units available to women" as to men in any establishment that has coin-operated toilets. The bill will become law after being approved by the State Senate and signed by Governor Dixy Lee Ray (1914-1994).

Passage Blocked

John Bagnariol (ca. 1932-2009), a powerful Democratic Representative from Renton, first introduced legislation to ban pay toilets during the 1975 legislative session after stopping at a Snoqualmie Pass service station that had a coin-operated toilet stall lock. Later accounts suggest that "Baggy," as he was often known, did not have the right change at his time of need, but he told reporters at the time that "he had a dime -- but wondered what would happen if he didn't" (Hannula).

Although observers assumed that Baggy’s pay toilet ban would pass easily, in 1975 it never made it out of the Senate Social and Health Services Committee chaired by Democrat William "Big Daddy" Day of Spokane. While Bagnariol's proposal was viewed favorably, attracting more attention -- and inspiring more jokes -- than most bills, it had no organized support. And there was organized opposition. Nik-O-Lok, an Indianapolis company with a Bellevue branch, which earned about $25,000 annually from coin locks at nearly 100 restrooms around Washington, hired vending-machine association lobbyist Dick Matheson to work against the ban. The bill died in committee.

Two years later, in the next Legislative session, Bagnariol tried again. By then he had risen to become Speaker of the state House of Representatives. Since the speaker does not sponsor bills, Bagnariol's fellow Democrat, Representative John Fischer of Everett, introduced House Bill No. 675, which would have made it "unlawful for any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement located in this state to have any pay toilet on its premises." Thirty-two representatives joined Fischer in sponsoring the bill.

"Equal Potty Rights"

Despite the large number of co-sponsors, an outright ban on pay toilets did not pass. Instead, in what may have been a compromise with the pay-toilet industry, the House Committee on Social and Health Services recommended a substitute bill that allowed coin lock controls on toilet stalls if at least one half of the "toilet units" in any public restroom were free and mandated that if coin locks were placed on restroom entry doors, keys be provided without charge when requested, with notice as to their availability posted on the door.

The substitute bill also ensured that public restrooms "shall not discriminate in charges required between facilities used by men and facilities used by women" and mandated "proportionate equality of free toilet units." The bill specified that "toilet units are defined as constituting commodes and urinals," thereby addressing what many saw as one of the driving forces behind the legislation: situations where women had to pay to access toilet stalls while men's urinals were available without charge. Indeed, Senate committee chair "Big Daddy" Day dubbed the bill the "Equal Potty Rights Act of 1977" ("Lawmakers For ...").

Passed at Last

On April 19, 1977, the House of Representatives accepted the committee recommendation to adopt the revised bill. Substitute House Bill No. 675 passed the House by a vote of 81 to 13. Exactly a month later, on May 19, Senator Day's committee, where the bill had died two years earlier, recommended that the Senate pass the substitute bill. The official Senate Journal reported that "debate ensued" and duly recorded an exchange between Democrat Al Henry of White Salmon and committee chair Day on a "point of inquiry":

Senator Henry: "Will Senator Day yield to a question? Would you say that the philosophy ... behind this [is that if] Mother Nature call[s], she shouldn’t have to call collect?"

Senator Day: "That is correct" (Senate Journal).

A majority of Senators evidently agreed that calls of nature should not be collect. They passed the pay toilet bill by a vote of 27 to 18. Governor Dixy Lee Ray signed the bill into law on May 28, 1977. Thirty years later it remains on the books, ensuring that, in the words of journalist (and Seattle City Councilmember) Jean Godden (b. 1931), "you’ll never pay to go" in the state of Washington.

Sources:
House Journal of the Forty-Fifth Legislature of the State of Washington (Olympia: State Printing Plant, 1977), pp. 945-46; Senate Journal: Regular and First Extraordinary Sessions of the Forty-Fifth Legislature (Olympia: State Printing Plant, 1977), Vol. 2, pp. 1739-40; "House Bill No. 675" and "Substitute House Bill No. 675," House Bills, 1977 Vol. 6 (copies on file at Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington); 1977 Wash. Laws, 1st Ex. Sess., Ch. 97; Don Hannula, "Bill Affects Everyone But Is Stalled," The Seattle Times, June 7, 1975, p. A-1; "Lawmakers For Equal Rights -- Everywhere," Ibid., May 20, 1977, p. D-3; Jean Godden, "You’ll Never Pay to Go At Stadium," Ibid., March 30, 1997 (http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com); Godden, "Nature Calls Not Collect," Ibid., September 3, 2001.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Government & Politics | Society |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You


This essay made possible by:
The State of Washington
Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation


Pay Toilet Poster



Washington House of Representatives Co-Speakers John Bagnariol and Duane Berentson, Olympia, 1979
Courtesy Washington Secretary of State


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org