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Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Make State-Related Universities Subject to PA Transparency, Ethics Laws
HARRISBURG – State Reps. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), Jim Christiana (R-Beaver/Washington) and John Maher (R-Allegheny/Washington) today unveiled a three-bill package of legislation that aims to boost the transparency and accountability of Pennsylvania’s state-related universities, which collectively receive more than $560 million of taxpayer dollars annually.

The four state-related universities are Lincoln University, Penn State, University of Pittsburgh and Temple University.

The first proposal, authored by Maher, would greatly expand the obligations of state-related universities under the state’s Right-to-Know Law. Currently those institutions have very limited transparency under the law such as reporting some financial information, including certain employees’ salaries, to the General Assembly, auditor general and governor.

“State taxes support uncounted thousands of nonprofits every year. Among those many thousand, only four are specifically subject to the Right-to-Know Law at all -- Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln universities,” Maher explained. “These schools have special relationships with the state denoted by the short-hand label, ‘state-related universities.’ This legislation would greatly expand the statutory obligations of these universities for transparency without compromising the research, medical and other missions so important to Pennsylvania.”

The second proposal, authored by Christiana, would subject members of the Board of Trustees and other employees at the universities responsible for taking or recommending official action to the requirements of Pennsylvania’s Ethics Act.

“The more transparency the taxpayers get, the more they want and government shouldn’t stand in their way,” said Christiana. “Like our state-owned schools, these universities receive a tremendous amount of tax dollars. Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being used for the right reasons.”

Bernstine’s legislation would make substantial changes to the structure of the Penn State Board of Trustees.

“This legislation would ensure the board answers to the students, educators, alumni and donors, not to special interests,” Bernstine said. “Too many cooks in the kitchen make it difficult to provide appropriate oversight and make decisions in the best interest of the Penn State community.”

A group of 12 members of the Penn State Board of Trustees indicated their support of Bernstine’s legislation in a press statement released last month.

All three proposals are based on recommendations issued by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in a 2017 performance audit of Penn State.

“These three commonsense measures will go a long way toward ensure the transparency and accountability that students, parents and taxpayers deserve,” said DePasquale.

Representative Aaron Bernstine
Representative Jim Christiana
Representative John Maher
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Abbey Haslam

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