Attorney General: Honorable Andrew G. DeRocco, Department of Higher Education 1996-016 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

October 25, 1996

Honorable Andrew G. DeRocco
Department of Higher Education
61 Woodland Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06105

Dear Commissioner DeRocco:

In your letter dated June 20. 1996, you requested our opinion as to whether the Commissioner of Higher Education must obtain authorization of the Governor under Conn. Gen. Stat. 3-7 prior to forgiving under Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-163(f)(4) an uncollectible loan made pursuant to the Teacher Incentive Loan Program.

Section 10a-163 was enacted in 1977 to provide for a teacher incentive loan program for teacher training in areas of initial teacher shortages. Subsection (f)(4), which specifically addresses loan forgiveness, provides in relevant part:

The commissioner may forgive loans if the commissioner determines that such action is required due to the death or disability of the recipient or because the loan is uncollectible in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

The Commissioner has been granting over the succeeding years forgiveness of these loans on the basis of the statutory criteria. However, in the report of their audit of the Department of Higher Education for the biennium which ended on June 30, 1995, the state auditors questioned whether the Commissioner must comply with the process set out in 3-7(b) before he may forgive such a loan.1 Auditors' Report, Department of Higher Education, Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 1994 and 1995. The state auditors recommended that the Commissioner obtain clarification from this office.2

It is our opinion that the Commissioner's 10a-163 loan forgiveness authority is not limited by 3-7(b).

If two statutes appear to be inconsistent, they both should be so construed fairly and reasonably, if possible, to give both full force and effect. Danbury Rubber Co. v. Local 402, 145 Conn. 53, 57 (1958). Yet, "specific terms covering the given subject matter will prevail over general language of the same or another statute which might otherwise prove controlling." Oles v. Furlong, 134 Conn. 334, 342 (1948) quoting Kepner v. U.S., 195 U.S. 100, 125, 24 S.Ct. 797 (1904); see also Institute of Living v. Hartford, 133 Conn. 258, 270 (1946). Under these principles the more specific forgiveness language of 10a-163(f)(4) prevails over the general cancellation provisions of 3-7(b). Further, in construing statutes, the legislature is presumed not to intend to pass useless legislation. Bergner v. State, 144 Conn. 282, 287 (1957). If the General Assembly had intended the Commissioner to obtain gubernatorial approval prior to forgiving a teacher incentive loan, there would have been no need to enact the pertinent language of 10a-163(f)(4) because implementation of the 3-7(b) process alone would have resulted in cancellation of the loan; nor would there be any purpose in seeking 3-7(b) cancellation after the Commissioner has forgiven a loan under 10a-163(f)(4) because at that point there no longer exists a debt to cancel.

Thus, once the Commissioner exercises his discretion to forgive an uncollectible teacher incentive loan under 10a-163(f)(4), the loan is deemed cancelled and no further action is required.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal

Attorney General

Bernard F. McGovern, Jr.

Assistant Attorney General

RB/BFM/sad


1 Section 3-7(b), which was enacted in 1949, provides in relevant part:

The governor, upon the recommendation of the attorney general, may authorize the cancellation upon the books of any state department or agency of any uncollectible claim for an amount greater than two hundred dollars due to such department or agency....

2 The state auditors raised the same question about loan forgiveness under the Academic Scholarship Loan Program, Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-170e - 10a-170m. Sec. 10a-170k(a) contains the same forgiveness provision as is in 10a-163. This opinion applies likewise to loan forgiveness under that program.


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