Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

CORRECTED JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-333

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FOUNDATION OF CONSTITUENT UNITS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Vote Date:

3/15/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/8/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill increases the transparency of and accountability for the foundations Connecticut's institutions of higher education by establishing set guidelines for the type and frequency of information reported by the university's foundation. This information would then become part of the public record, allowing the public transparent access to information about the foundations.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Sean Bradbury, Legislative Program Manager, Connecticut State Colleges & Universities: Mr. Bradbury submit testimony stating that the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) supported the bill, but did suggest some technical changes. He writes, “First, to conform with the technical changes in our enabling statutes we are seeking this year, we respectfully request that the language in Section 1 subsection 3 be changed to read: (3) If the constituent unit is the [Board of Trustees of the Community-Technical Colleges or the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut State University System] Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, the purposes of the foundation shall be limited to providing funding for (A) scholarships or other direct student financial aid, and (B) programs, services or activities at one or more of the institutions within its jurisdiction;” to ensure that the foundations of institutions in the CSCU system are not limited in their abilities to function under the bill. Secondly, they would like to work with the Committee to establish a threshold to ensure the smallest institutions in the CSCU system are not burdened by reporting requirements they have neither the staff nor resources to comply with.

Mun Choi, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Connecticut: Provost Choi testified in support of the bill. He notes that the fundraising done by the UConn Foundation is essential to the current a future success of the university. Of the bill, he writes, “We are pleased that the bill under consideration allows the Foundation to continue fundraising aggressively. Most importantly, it will give our donors a level of comfort that they are giving to an entity that will safeguard their privacy, has appropriate oversight and allows them to provide philanthropic support to the University in the manner that they deem appropriate.”

Mary Schwind, Managing Director and Associate General Counsel, Freedom of Information Commission: Ms. Schwind testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Freedom of Information Commission because they believe it is a step in the right direction towards better transparency in the UConn Foundation. They do feel, however, that in the future it would be best for the Foundation to be fully subject to the provisions of the FOI Act, as it exclusively supports a public institution so information about it should be accountable to the public.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

John Malfettone, Donor and Board Member, UConn Foundation: Mr. Malfettone testified in support of the bill, which he thinks will strengthen public confidence in the UConn Foundation, leading to an increase in donations and benefit the university. He appreciates that the bill maintains the independence of the foundation, rather than treating it like a state agency. He feels the bill strikes the right balance of prioritizing scholarship support while still allowing donors to support areas they are passionate about, such as athletic programs or facilities which are integral to the success of the university.

Joshua Newton, President and CEO, UConn Foundation: Mr. Newton supports this bill, which he believes has the ability to “enhance public confidence in the Foundation without undermining its ability to raise philanthropic funds.” He appreciates the goal that the Foundation eventually become fully financially independent from the University of Connecticut, but believes a significant reduction in funding from the university at the current time would be detrimental, and appreciates that any reduction in funding will be in proportion to growth in the Foundation's endowment.

James Smith, President, Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information: Mr. Smith testified in support of the bill because he believes that, since the UConn Foundation performs a public function, it should not have a blanket FOI exemption. He feels that the public deserves the opportunity to “judge whether the foundation has invested well; allocated resources wisely and fairly; and transacted business prudently, efficiently and without impropriety.” He does suggest, however, that if donors do not object to having their names shared, this information should be reported as well.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Senator Michael McLachlan, 24th District: Senator McLachlan submit testimony in opposition to the bill. He believes that, as long as the UConn Foundation is receiving any taxpayer money, it should be subject to Connecticut's FOI laws, inclusive of payments to Foundation and UConn employees and donor information (with an option to opt out).

Paul Singley, President, Connecticut Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists: Mr. Singley submit testimony in opposition to the bill, which he feels does not provide the public with enough information to adequately judge if the UConn Foundation is properly using the funds it raises. He feels the UConn Foundation and foundations of other public institutions in the state should be fully subject to the state's Freedom of Information Act. He dismisses claims that this will hurt the Foundation's ability to fundraise as not being backed up by information provided by OLR on similar university foundations. Instead, greater transparency will allow the public to be assured that the Foundation is not involved in any misconduct.

Reported by: Assistant Clerk Sam Westbrook

Date: March 15, 2016