Attorney General: John W. Shannahan , Connecticut Historical Commission , 1994-020 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

August 12, 1994

John W. Shannahan
Director
Connecticut Historical Commission
59 South Prospect Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Mr. Shannahan:

You have asked our opinion on whether the Connecticut Historical Commission may establish gift shops in historic properties that are maintained by the Commission for the purpose of generating revenues to be used to help defray the costs associated with the operation of the properties. As authority for the proposed action, you cite Section 10-321d of the Connecticut General Statutes. In our opinion, Section 10-321d does not provide the Commission with the requisite authority to establish gift shops. Being creatures of the legislature, administrative agencies have no general, inherent or common-law powers, but only those powers expressly conferred upon them by statute and such as are implied by their grant of authority. 2 Am. Jur. 2d, Administrative Law  55, 59. Here the Commission looks to  10-321d as a potential source of authority to engage in a revenue generating commercial activity. This statute reads as follows:

The commission may, using such funds as may be appropriated to it or available from any other source, acquire by gift, grant, bequest, devise, lease, purchase or otherwise historic structures or landmarks, including such adjacent land as may be necessary for the comfort and safety of the visiting public, which the commission determines to be of national or state historical importance and to be of such concern to the public at large that they should be held forever in good condition for visitation by the public and for the protection of the heritages of the people of this state and nation. The commission may restore, maintain and operate such properties in such a condition as to render them suitable for public visitation and to inform the public of the historic event or circumstance connected therewith. The commission may charge reasonable visitation fees in order to help defray the cost of maintenance and operation. The commission may cooperate with the department of environmental protection and any other appropriate municipal, state or federal agency or private organization in carrying out functions under this section, and may enter into agreements for such purposes. (emphasis added)

As always, an analysis of a statute begins by examination of its language. "The starting point in any case involving a question of statutory construction must be the language used by the legislature." Nickel Mine Brook Associates Joseph E. Sakal, P.C., 217 Conn. 361, 364, 585 A.2d 1210 (1991). In this regard, the above quoted language of  10-321d provides express authority to the Commission to "charge reasonable visitation fees in order to help defray the cost of maintenance and operation" of historic properties that it has acquired. However, the statute is silent as to any authority to engage in other revenue-producing activities for this purpose.

It is our duty to interpret a statute as it is written. Glastonbury Co. Gillies, 209 Conn. 175, 179, 550 A.2d 8 (1988). We cannot, by construction, read into a statute provisions which are not clearly stated. Id.; Robinson Guman, 163 Conn. 439, 444, 311 A.2d 57 (1972). "In the interpretation of statutes, the intent of the legislature is to be found not in what it meant to say but in what it did say." Federal Aviation Administration v. Administration, 196 Conn. 546, 549-50, 494 A.2d 564 (1985). We think it is plain from the language of  10-321d that the legislature has not delegated to the Commission the authority to engage in general commercial ventures as a revenue producing source. Rather, it would appear that the legislature simply intended the Commission to have the more traditional authority to charge admission fees.1

In marked contrast to the lack of express language in  10-321d is the language in other provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes empowering particular state agencies to engage in revenue generating commercial activities. For example, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection is authorized to "enter into contractual relations with other persons for the operation of concessions [and to] establish other sources of revenue to be derived from services to the general public using [state] parks, forests and facilities." Conn. Gen. Stat.  23-26(a). Similarly, the Board of Education and Services for the Blind is authorized to operate food service facilities and vending machine or stands for the sale of newspapers, periodicals, confections, tobacco products, food and other merchandise in any building or property owned, operated or leased by the state or any municipality. Conn. Gen. Stat.  10-303.

It is therefore our opinion that Conn. Gen. Stat.  10-321d, while authorizing the Commission to charge an admission fee, does not authorize it to engage in other revenue generating activities to help defray the cost of maintenance and operation at historic properties.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Alan N. Ponanski
Assistant Attorney General

RB/ANP/aes


Footnote:

1 See also subsection (b)(14) of Section 10-321 of the Connecticut General Statutes wherein the Commission is authorized to ". . .operate the Henry Whitfield House of Guilford, otherwise known as the Old Stone House, as a state historical museum and, in its discretion, charge a fee for admission to said museum and account for and deposit the same as provided in section 4-32."


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