January 15, 2008
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF PA 90-256
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked for a legislative history of PA 90-256, including who introduced the original bill, public hearings, and other similar information. You were especially interested in the act's provisions relating to Woodstock Academy's executive board.
The bill that became PA 90-256 was HB 6024 of the 1990 session. The bill, An Act Concerning School Construction, was raised by the Education Committee and referred to that committee on March 8, 1990.
The original bill made several changes in the school construction laws. It:
1. allowed local school boards to be reimbursed their usual school construction percentages for leasing portable classrooms;
2. made Woodstock Academy, Norwich Free Academy, and the Gilbert School (the endowed academies) eligible for state school construction grants in any year under the same conditions as already applied to Woodstock Academy for 1987;
3. allowed local officials instead of the education commissioner to approve final plans and specifications for certain school construction projects;
4. extended the deadline for replacing newer underground storage tanks;
5. established a new and simplified method for ranking the priority of school construction projects eligible for state funding;
6. made several school construction statutes conform to existing practice; and
7. made technical changes.
The Education Committee held a public hearing on HB 6024 on March 16, 1990. Four witnesses testified in favor of the bill, three on the endowed academy provision and one on the provision allowing local officials to approve plans and specifications for certain projects. The three witnesses testifying on the endowed academy provision represented the Gilbert School in Winsted.
Elbert Manchester of Winsted described the history of the Gilbert School. He told the committee that the school was planning to alter its governing board (the “school committee”) to meet the same conditions as Woodstock Academy, with a majority of members coming from the town board of education “or somewhere from the town.” The school had urgent construction needs, especially for a new roof, and wished to be eligible for state school construction reimbursement grants.
John Phillips, President of the Gilbert School Board of Trustees, stated that the school had filled two recent openings on its governing board with two members from the town's (Winchester) board of education, which he said had worked well. Once it made these appointments, the school applied to the State Department of Education for a school construction grant under the erroneous belief that it would be eligible if it “restructured ourselves along the Woodstock example.” The department informed them that legislation would be needed to make the Gilbert School eligible. The Gilbert School trustees planned to vote formally in the following month to abide by the public member requirements of the bill.
James Steenstra was the principal of the Gilbert School. He also spoke in support of the section of the bill dealing with school construction grants for endowed academies.
The Education Committee added a technical provision after the public hearing and reported the substitute bill favorably to the Appropriations Committee on March 30, 1990. Appropriations reported the bill favorably without changes on April 6. The Education Committee vote was 24-0; the Appropriations Committee vote was 26-12. The section of the bill dealing with the endowed academies remained unchanged from the public hearing except for being renumbered.
The House took up the bill on May 3, 1990. As soon as the bill was called, Rep. Cohen, the House Education Committee chairperson, offered House Amendment “A” to (1) eliminate the provision allowing school construction grants for leasing portable classrooms and (2) make the deadline extension for replacing underground storage tanks apply to the endowed academies as well as public schools. After a brief discussion, House “A” was adopted on a voice vote.
Rep. Cohen then summarized the bill. With regard to the endowed academy provision, she said: “It also provides that endowed academies, should they meet the state criteria, will also be eligible for school construction money.”
After her summary, Rep. Belden offered an amendment (House “B”) to restore the statutory requirements that the education commissioner (1) distribute information on building materials and (2) advise districts on long-range planning and the suitability of their preliminary school construction plans. After a short discussion of the amendment, Rep. Cohen made no objection and House “B” was also adopted by a voice vote.
The remaining debate was short and entirely focused on the bill's changes in the school construction project priority rankings. Reps. Krawiecki, Emmons, and Osler commented on the proposed changes in the priority rankings. The amended bill passed unanimously by a vote of 142-0.
The Senate took up the amended bill on May 8. In his short summary of the bill, Senator Sullivan, the Senate Education Committee chairperson, said that, among other things, “there is also legislation in this bill where there's an importance to particularly the Gilbert School, which has for some time wanted to qualify for school construction grants, and with the legislation, will do so.”
The Senate adopted the amended bill by a vote of 36 to 0.