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Va. bill exempting university donor information advances

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  1. Freedom of Information
A bill that would allow the University of Virginia to keep private the names of donors who ask for anonymity…

A bill that would allow the University of Virginia to keep private the names of donors who ask for anonymity when making gifts has moved forward in the General Assembly.

If enacted, the bill would grant the school an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold an indeterminate amount of personal information about their nearly 450,000 donors.

The information at hand includes Social Security numbers, marital status and net worth, which should remain private, according to open government advocates. The information they content should not be hidden are the names of those donors who wish to remain anonymous, whose contributions add up to about $74 million of the $3 billion total donation amount.

“In releasing the names there’s a huge public purpose in seeing who is giving to a public institute,” said Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association. “It’s necessary for there to be an oversight of this process when it’s a public institute.”

The state House version of the bill was approved by the Committee on General Laws last week and will likely come up for a floor vote on Friday. The state Senate version was approved by a subcommittee on Monday, passed the Committee on General Laws and Technology on Wednesday and will be voted on by the full Senate early next week.

“We haven’t been able to slow this train down at all despite our lengthy testimonies and protests,” Stanley said. “It just does not seem that anyone is willing to take on the University of Virginia. I have no visions of it not passing.”

Stanley said either bill could reach the governor’s desk as early as the last week in February.