Nearly eight months ago, then state Auditor General Jack Wagner issued a long list of recommendations that he thought would provide for more oversight of the operation of Penn State University. Most of those recommendations have not been adopted, but Democrats in the state Senate are pushing to change that.
“We are calling upon our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to have that conversation with us over the course summer and the fall,” said Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny).
The focus on the governance of Penn State stems from the Jerry Sandusky scandal that some, including special independent investigator Louis Freeh, think falls at least partially on a lack of good governance.
Several pieces of legislation focused on reforming the PSU board and the regulation of the university have already been introduced in Harrisburg. Costa specifically wants to focus on including the school in the state’s Right-to-Know law, expanding the state’s ethics oversight and expectations of the board and reforming board composition.
Among the legislation up for debate is SB 408, which would expand the Ethics Act to cover board members of all state-related universities, and SB 410, which would reduce the size of the Penn State board, implement term limits and prohibit the university president and the governor from voting on board issues.
While the Democrats are eager to get the reforms passed, Costa said he will not use the school’s budget as a bargaining chip as some have suggested.
“We strongly believe that we will not hold the university or its students or faculty hostage to achieve our end of the conversation,” Costa said.
Wagner’s report also included recommendations on how much control the state legislature should have over the board. It found that “according to its original charter from the 1850s the state legislature must approve of any changes made by Penn State's Board of Trustees.”
Lawmakers have not been using that power, and Sen. Rob Teplitz (D- York) thinks it is time to exercise that power.
Republicans have not officially responded to the request for hearings.