Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, and Rep. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, filed amendments on 35 different bills to change the Democrats’ budget that would make the nonprofit corporation created with billionaire investor Ray Dalio’s $100 million education investment subject to the state’s Freedom of Information laws.
The budget is being debated in the Senate where it is expected to pass but Elliott and Flexer’s amendment passes, it could ultimately change the final budget agreement.
Dalio’s foundation donated $100 million to aide education in Connecticut’s underprivileged schools and the state is matching his donation with an additional $100 million.
As part of the budget agreement, Connecticut created the Partnership For Connecticut, Inc that will oversee and direct the investment.
Media and lawmakers raised red-flags, however, noting the nonprofit corporation was exempt from the state’s FOI laws because the board – which consists of some public officials and members of Dalio’s foundation – will not be considered public employees and the corporation would not be considered a state department or agency.
Flexer and Elliott’s amendments would change that.
The senator and representative gutted a bill entitled “An Act Concerning the Conveyance of Certain Parcels of State Land in Cheshire” and replaced it with language making the board and all of the nonprofit corporation’s staff public employees and therefore subject to state oversight laws.
The deal to create the nonprofit corporation to handle Dalio’s investment was struck between Gov. Ned Lamont and Democratic leaders as part of the budget.
Republican lawmakers like Vincent Candelora, R-Branford, criticized the disclosure exemptions for the new nonprofit corporation, asking “since when are tax dollars not subject to complete transparency?” in an interview with CT Mirror.
The Lamont administration argued there would be reports from the corporation on how the money is being spent, its programs and fundraising.
Flexer and Elliott, two of the Democrats most progressive members who often speak out against corporate power, are pushing back against the disclosure exemption in a rare conflagration between Republican budget criticisms and progressive initiatives.
It is unknown how Democratic leadership, or the Lamont administration, will receive the amendment which threatens to draw out a budget fight in the Senate.
Just weeks ago the House of Representatives passed a Connecticut State Police contract that exempted officers’ personnel records from FOI disclosure, raising concerns from the media but falling on deaf ears in the legislature.