General Assembly Vote Tracker

HB72 – Applying FOIA to the Universities

Representative John Kowalko is back with his bill to remove the exemption of public universities from the Freedom of Information Act.   Kowalko has been pursuing this legislation since the 2013-2014 session, when the University of Delaware entered a secret agreement to build the power plant in his district. Kowalko has said that this bill is based on the premise that universities get money from taxpayers and as a result should have to divulge how their funds are spent.

Earlier attempts to pass this legislation resulted in a compromise bill in 2014 that required universities to produce only records related to proposals or contracts that use public funds.  Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill into law in July 2014. The bill allowed the universities to remain largely exempt from open meetings and open records laws with the exception of Board of Trustee meetings.

This new bill returns to the original premise of just removing the exemption entirely, though it would protect University information related to  admission, employment or honors.  Delaware’s FOIA, as currently written, already exempts personally identifiable student information protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Universities would not be required to disclose scholarly research or information related thereto where such information is of a proprietary nature. Finally, certain information related to fundraising activities would be protected from disclosure.

I am curious as to what information is currently undiscoverable under the compromise bill in 2014 that was signed that would be produced under this new bill after its exceptions are taken into account.


UPDATE: 6/8/17

SPONSORS: Kowalko, Walsh, Potter, Baumbach, Jaques, Keely, Lynn, Osienski, Paradee, Williams 



HISTORY: Placed in the House Administration Committee on 3.9.17.

STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in committee.

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2 comments on “HB72 – Applying FOIA to the Universities

  1. Another Mike

    For an example of why this legislation is necessary, let’s turn back the clock a few years. In 2009, UD eliminated track and field and cross country, both of which were fairly successful programs. In 1991, it was wrestling that felt the axe. These deliberations were conducted behind closed doors, not subject to any public meetings. Athletes, coaches, alumni and boosters were excluded from the deliberations.

    The only meetings opened up thanks to the compromise legislation are those having to do with the budget. Not one other topic is subject to open-meetings or open-records laws.

    UD is public when it wants state money and private the rest of the time. If they don’t want any public disclosure, that’s fine, but the spigot from Dover should then be turned off.

  2. Steven H Newton

    It is important to note that only two states–DE and PA–do not have the FOIA access for public universities that the Kowalko bill provides. If public universities in 48 other states can function under it, so can UD, DSU, and DTCC.

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