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CHICO — Nonprofit organizations tied to higher education may have to throw open nearly all of their books if Senate Bill 8 passes. But for Chico State University, transparency might not be the problem.

If the bill becomes law, which university officials say is very likely, it will put three Chico State organizations under the domain of the California Public Records Act: the Associated Students, the University Foundation and the Research Foundation.

The bill, which is the third attempt by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) to make university auxiliary records public, won”t have much effect on how Chico State”s organizations operate, said Joe Wills, director of public affairs and publications at Chico State.

All three organizations already post financial records — such as their budgets, revenue reports and tax filings — to their respective websites for public perusal, something not currently required by California law.

That isn”t to say that the bill”s probable passage won”t cause any problems for the university.

With public records requests come deadlines and legal uncertainties, such as whether the records act exempts certain personal information from otherwise public documents, Wills said. Consultations with attorneys and finding requested documents takes time and effort, which could strain staffs at the auxiliaries.

Preparing for the bill”s passage will also require specific training for auxiliary officials on how to respond to requests, a concern that all will need to address before it becomes law.

More specifically, each auxiliary has special concerns related to what the bill can change.

Associated Students, a multi-million dollar corporation that operates the A.S. Bookstore, A.S. Dining Services and more, could see problems with the exposure of business contracts, which usually contain bids for services or trade secrets, said David Buckley, executive director. If that information became public, getting competitive prices on the goods and services they sell to students could become difficult.

The bill provides that trade secrets will be blacked out before making contracts public, a condition of the California Public Records Act.

The Research Foundation, which handles the processing of government and private grants and contracts, also could see complications for contracts becoming public, but that section of their portfolio is relatively small and training will help to keep trade secrets safe, said Karen Finley, associate executive.

That organization”s chief concern is the possibility that holding the private auxiliaries to public standards of openness may change their non-government status, Finley said. That concern was addressed by the bill as well and the Research Foundation will remain a private nonprofit.

As for the University Foundation, which handles donations and gifts to the university, any major concern was addressed with recent amendments to the bill that allowed for donor anonymity under very specific conditions, said Rick Ellison, secretary vice president for University Advancement.

The bill”s conditions for revealing donor names and contact information include denying anonymity when a donor receives a gift in return from the university valued equal or more than $2,500 and when a donor receives a no-bid contract from the university within five years.

None of the auxiliary officials are nervous about their information becoming public, saying they already comply with records requests and post their records online.

“There”s nothing secret about our business budgets,” Buckley said.

“I can”t think of any request that”s come in where we”ve declined information,” Finley said.

“We”re in favor of transparency,” Ellison said.

Joe Wills sees the bill as an opportunity to maybe even show people how Chico State handles its money and what it does for students. “I think we have a good story to tell, and if the law helps to tell it, it”s great,” he said.

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