PA 07-166—sSB 1315

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Banks Committee

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

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

The act allows higher education constituent units' faculty or faculty bargaining unit members to enter into consulting agreements or engage in research projects with public or 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 act exempts from creditors' claims interests in or amounts payable to participants and beneficiaries of any qualified state college savings plan.

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

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except for the provisions on the UConn 2000 audits, which are effective July 1, 2007, and the qualified state college savings plans, which are effective October 1, 2007.

STATE CONTRACTS

With two exceptions, the law prohibits public officials, state employees, their immediate family members, and businesses with which they are associated from entering into state contracts 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 act 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.

CONSULTING AGREEMENTS AND RESEARCH PROJECTS

The act allows higher education constituent units' faculty or faculty bargaining unit members to consult or perform research projects with public or private entities that do not conflict with their employment with the institution as determined by institutional policies. It specifies that public officials or state employees who consult or perform research projects with public or 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' Consulting Agreements and Research Projects

Under the act, each constituent unit's board of trustees must establish policies to ensure that faculty or faculty bargaining unit members, in connection with the consulting agreements or projects, do not (1) inappropriately use the institution's proprietary information, (2) have an interest that interferes with the proper discharge of their employment, and (3) inappropriately use their association with the institution.

The policies must:

1. establish procedures for disclosing, reviewing, and managing conflicts of interest relating to the agreements or projects;

2. require that all consulting agreements or research projects receive the prior approval of the constituent unit's chief academic officer or his or her designee; and

3. include procedures that impose sanctions and penalties on any member for failing to comply with the policies.

Each constituent unit's internal audit office must audit the unit's compliance with such policies and semiannually report its findings to the constituent unit's compliance committee (see below).

The act defines “consulting” as the provision of services for compensation to a public or private entity by a faculty or faculty bargaining unit member of a constituent unit of the state higher education system, when (1) the provision of services is based on the member's expertise or prominence in a field and (2) the member is not acting in his or her capacity as a state employee. It defines “research” as a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to general knowledge in a field of study.

Compliance Committees

The act establishes a nine-member committee for each constituent unit to (1) monitor the unit's compliance with its policies and procedures, (2) review the semiannual audit reports of the unit's internal audit office, and (3) annually recommend any policy and procedural changes to the unit's trustees. The committees must submit a copy of their recommendations to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement and Government Administration and Elections committees.

Three members serve on all of the constituent unit compliance committees. These members are jointly appointed by the governor; House speaker and majority and minority leaders; and the Senate president pro tempore and majority and minority leaders. The other committee members are:

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

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

3. three members appointed by the constituent unit's chief executive officer; and

4. one member of the Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board, appointed by the board's chairperson.

Members serve for two years. The appointing authority must fill any vacancies.

QUALIFIED STATE COLLEGE SAVINGS PLANS

The act 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. ” By law, 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 prior law, the independent auditors appointed by UConn's Board of Trustees to conduct annual audits of UConn 2000 projects were 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 act revises this requirement by allowing the auditors to review a sample of invoices, expenditures, and cost allocations rather than all of the documentation.

The act 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.

OLR Tracking: RP: SC: JL: TS