OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1315

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FACULTY AT PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND REVISIONS TO VARIOUS HIGHER EDUCATION STATUTES.

SUMMARY:

This bill expands the types of state contracts that individuals covered under the State Ethics Code can enter into without violating the code.

The bill allows higher education constituent units' faculty or faculty bargaining unit members to enter into outside consulting agreements or engage in research projects with private entities. It specifies that these agreements and projects do not violate the State Ethics Code's prohibitions against public officials and state employees accepting certain outside employment or disclosing confidential information. It requires each constituent unit's board of trustees to establish policies on such agreements or projects and establishes committees to monitor each unit's compliance with the policies.

The bill exempts from creditors' claims interests in or amounts payable to participants and beneficiaries of any qualified state college savings plan.

The bill also revises the independent audit requirements for UConn 2000 projects and makes numerous technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007, except that the provisions on the UConn 2000 audits are effective July 1, 2007 and the technical changes are effective upon passage.

STATE CONTRACTS

With two exceptions, the law prohibits public officials, state employees, immediate family members, and businesses with which they are associated from entering into a state contract worth $ 100 or more unless it is awarded through an open and public process. The exceptions are for employment contracts and contracts resulting from court appointments. The bill allows these individuals and associated businesses to contract with public higher education institutions for the development and commercialization of inventions and discoveries without going through an open and public process.

OUTSIDE CONSULTING AGREEMENTS AND RESEARCH PROJECTS

The bill allows higher education constituent units' faculty or faculty bargaining unit members to consult or perform research projects with private entities that do not conflict with their public responsibilities to the institution as determined by institutional policies. It specifies that public officials or state employees who consult or perform research projects with private entities and comply with these institutional policies do not violate the State Ethics Code.

Under the State Ethics Code, public officials or state employees cannot (1) accept jobs that impair their independent judgment or require them to disclose confidential information or (2) use confidential information or their offices for their financial gain or that of others.

Policies Governing Faculty Members' Outside Consulting Agreements and Research Projects

Under the bill, each constituent unit's board of trustees must establish policies to ensure that faculty or faculty bargaining unit members:

1. do not use the institution's proprietary information,

2. do not have an interest that interferes with the proper discharge of their duties or employment, and

3. get the constituent unit's permission to associate the institution with the private entity.

The policies must (1) establish procedures for disclosing, reviewing, and managing conflicts of interest and (2) require that all outside consulting agreements or research projects receive the approval of the institution's chief academic officer. Each constituent unit's internal audit office must assess compliance with such policies and semiannually report to the constituent unit's compliance committee.

Compliance Committee

The bill establishes seven-member committees to monitor each constituent unit's compliance with its policies and, together with the internal audit staff, review its semiannual audit reports and recommend any policy changes. Each committee consists of:

1. three members jointly appointed by the House speaker and minority leader and the Senate president pro tempore and minority leader;

2. one member of the constituent unit's board of trustees, appointed by its board's chairperson;

3. the constituent unit's chief academic officer, or his or her designee; and

4. two members appointed by the constituent unit's chief executive officer.

The bill does not specify the length of the appointments.

QUALIFIED STATE COLLEGE SAVINGS PLANS

The bill exempts from creditors' claims interests in or amounts payable to participants and beneficiaries of any qualified state college savings plan, also known as “529 plans. ” Currently, creditors cannot claim interests in and payments from specified accounts, including certain retirement accounts, simplified employee pension plans, and medical savings accounts.

UCONN 2000 AUDITS

Under current law, the independent auditors appointed by UConn's Board of Trustees to conduct annual audits of UConn 2000 projects are required to review all invoices, expenditures, cost allocations, and other appropriate documentation to verify their conformance to all budgets, cost allocation agreements, and applicable contracts. The bill revises this requirement by allowing the auditors to review a sample of invoices, expenditures, and cost allocations rather than all of the documentation.

The bill also requires the auditors to submit an annual report on their findings to the General Assembly. By law, UConn's Board of Trustees must review the auditors' reports annually.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

18

Nay

0

(03/13/2007)