Attorney General: Brian Sigman, Executive Director, Board of Education and Services for the Blind, 2005-017 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

July 8, 2005

Brian Sigman, Executive Director
Board of Education and Service for the Blind
184 Windsor Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Mr. Sigman:

You have asked whether the Board of Education and Services for the Blind ("BESB") has the authority under Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303 to seek to provide all the food services that Central Connecticut State University ("CCSU") determines are desirable at the University if BESB decides it wants to pursue that location for the placement of blind vendor operated food service facilities.

We conclude that the statute gives BESB the authority to seek to provide such food services at state institutions of higher education. However, the statute is unclear on whether BESB has the authority to contract with a commercial entity to assist it in providing such food services pursuant to 10-303. Therefore, if BESB wishes to provide such food services but determines that a contract with a commercial entity is necessary or appropriate to do so, BESB should seek legislative clarification that it has authority to enter into such a contract with a commercial entity to assist in the provision of food services under the statute.

Under state law, BESB must be given priority whenever the authority in charge of any building owned or leased by the State or one of its municipalities issues a permit for the operation of a "food service facility, a vending machine or a stand" in the building. Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303(a) provides that:

[t]he authority in charge of any building or property owned, operated or leased by the state or any municipality therein shall grant to the Board of Education and Services for the Blind a permit to operate in such building or on such property a food service facility, vending machine or stand for the vending of newspapers, periodicals, confections, tobacco products, food and other such articles as such authority approves, when, in the opinion of such authority, such facility, machine or stand is desirable in such location. . . . Said Board may establish a training facility at any such location.

(Emphasis added). In a 1977 opinion, this Office opined that once the state or municipal authority in charge of a particular building determines that a vending stand or food service facility is desirable in a particular location, 10-303(a) requires that "priority be given to the Board of Education and Services for the Blind to receive a permit to operate such a facility." Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 1977 WL 36346 (March 31, 1977).

Conn. Gen. Stat. 10a-151b expressly exempts state institutions of higher education from a number of the statutory requirements for both contracting and the purchase of goods and services that would otherwise apply to state entities. The requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303, however, are not among the exemptions listed in 10a-151b. Because the legislature specifically enumerated the statutes that are not intended to apply to contracts and purchases by state institutions of higher education, but did not include 10-303, it must be concluded that 10-303 applies to state institutions of higher education, including CCSU. See Gay & Lesbian Law Students Assn. v. Board of Trustees, 236 Conn. 453, 476, 673 A.2d 484 (1996) (citing rule of statutory construction, expressio unius est exclusio alterius, or "the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another"); Chairman v. Freedom of Information Commission, 217 Conn. 193, 200, 585 A.2d 96 (1991); Hyatt v. Burlington Coat Factory, 263 Conn. 279, 295, 819 A.2d 260 (2003). Therefore, we conclude that Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303 gives BESB the opportunity to operate food service facilities at state institutions of higher education.

The statute does not, however, specify whether BESB, having been issued a permit to operate a food service facility, must operate the facility itself or may contract with a commercial entity to assist in the operation of the facility. In construing a statute, "we begin with a searching examination of the language of the statute, because that is the most important factor to be considered." Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue Services, 273 Conn. 240, 250, 869 A.2d 611 (2005). The language of 10-303 contains no mention of BESB having the authority to contract with a commercial entity to operate a food service facility.

Turning to the legislative history of 10-303, it is apparent that the statute was intended to provide employment and economic opportunities for blind persons. Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303 was enacted in 1945, nine years after the federal Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand Act, 20 U.S.C. 107 et seq., which authorizes blind persons to operate vending facilities on any federal property "[f]or the purposes of providing blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarging the economic opportunities of the blind, and stimulating the blind to greater efforts in striving to make themselves self-supporting." 20 U.S.C. 107(a). As the legislative history of 10-303 makes clear, Connecticut's statute was intended to dovetail with, and complement, the provisions of the federal statute. Arguing in support of the passage of Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303 in 1945, the Executive Secretary of BESB urged that the statute would provide work opportunities for the blind and cited the federal law, noting that it had resulted in the blind operating vending stands in seven post offices across Connecticut. Joint Standing Committee, Public Buildings and Grounds, p. 12 (April 4, 1945)(remarks of S.K. Ryan).

Although Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303 as originally adopted only applied to the operation of vending stands, it was expanded in 1959 to encompass food service facilities and vending machines. BESB's Executive Secretary supported the expansion and again stressed that the purpose of the legislation was to make "it possible for blind people to get employment" and "to insure that blind people are favored as the only ones eligible to sell in public buildings." Joint Standing Committee, Public Health and Safety, pp. 90-91 (February 26, 1959)(remarks of Exec. Sec. Sherburg).

The apparent legislative intent of 10-303 to provide employment specifically for blind individuals is also reflected in BESB's regulations, which explicitly state that "[l]icenses to operate vending facilities may be issued by the board [BESB] only to persons who are blind." Regulations of Conn. State Agencies, Board of Education and Services for the Blind, 10-303-3(a)(1)(emphasis added). The regulations "authorize[ ] the board to enter into agreements with individual blind persons, setting forth the terms and conditions under which a vending facility is established and operated including the rights, duties and obligations of both parties as set forth in these regulations." Regulations of Conn. State Agencies, Board of Education and Services for the Blind, 10-303-6.

Given the apparent purpose of 10-303 to provide employment opportunities for the blind, coupled with the lack of any reference to third party commercial vendors in the statute, there is no clear statutory authority for BESB to contract with a commercial entity, rather than with blind individuals, to provide all the food services required in a state institution of higher education such as CCSU.

There is no question that the Executive Director of BESB is authorized to "enter into such contractual agreements, in accordance with established procedures, as may be necessary for the discharge of his duties." Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-8; see also Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-5 (designating the Executive Director of BESB as a "department head" for purposes of 4-8). However, with no reference in section 10-303 or its legislative history to third party commercial vendors, it is unclear whether the legislature intended BESB to contract with commercial vendors to assist in the operation of food service facilities.

In sum, we conclude that BESB has the authority to provide food services at institutions of higher education. However, the language and legislative history of Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303, taken in conjunction with the language of Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-8, make it unclear whether BESB is authorized to enter into contracts with commercial entities to assist BESB in operating food service facilities at institutions of higher education such as CCSU. Accordingly, if BESB determines that contracts with commercial entities are necessary or advisable, it should seek legislative clarification of its authority to enter into such contracts under Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-303.

Please do not hesitate to contact this office if you require further assistance.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Jane R. Rosenberg
Assistant Attorney General


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