Senate Set to Vote on Port of Wilmington Bill Today

Filed in National by on January 16, 2013

Senator Bob Marshall wants to make sure that any sale/partnership/call it what you will regarding the Port of Wilmington must have legislative approval.

And why not? Jack Markell and Alan Levin have not publicly acknowledged any legislative prerogative when it comes to having their preferred partner, Kinder Morgan, an Enron spin-off with numerous environmental and labor violations on its record, take over the operations of the Port.  In this case, silence is not golden, unless you are Kinder Morgan. Keep in mind that, had Markell and Levin committed to the legislative process for this proposed transaction, none of this would be necessary. Methinks an unforced error.

You’d think, at least I’d think, that all 21 senators would vote yes on SB 3. I mean, why not? We’re talking about a transaction that would have huge impact to the State, the City of Wilmington, and hundreds of port workers and their families. You’re talking about the principle of three co-equal branches of government, and the possibility, should SB 3 not pass, that the General Assembly would be removed entirely from this momentous decision. You’re talking about the whole notion of legislative oversight and the public disinfectant of sunshine.

You’d also think, at least I’d think, that the need to pass this bill now should be obvious. After next week, we’re talking a six-week break for Joint Finance Committee hearings. Absent the passage of this bill by the end of next week, the Governor and DEDO could have a possible fig leaf to move forward with the project by citing the lack of legislative action. They’d expend a tremendous amount of political good will in doing so, but stranger things have happened.

Senate Bill 3 is on today’s Senate Agenda, and I fully expect it to pass. I will be interested in seeing which, if any senators, vote no or go ‘not voting’, and will no doubt psychoanalyze their votes tomorrow.

The key question is what happens in the House? Will Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf team up with Gov. Markell to slow-walk the bill, or will he stand up for the General Assembly as one of three co-equal branches of government?

Good question. We’ll have the answers shortly.


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  1. cassandra m says:

    The NJ reported on two businesses who have made it clear that they do not support the privatization of the port. What stood out for me here was this:

    At a meeting of the Senate Labor Committee in Dover, Port Chairman Alan Levin urged the committee to wait on voting on legislation that would give lawmakers authority to approve or reject any port deal.

    He said Kinder Morgan could pull out if lawmakers pass the bill before a draft contract is finalized.

    Really? A company that can’t live with the Democratic process is a company that we probably don’t want to do business with.

  2. Right. Either you want a democratic process, or you don’t. Once Kinder Morgan signs a contract, the General Assembly, at best, goes into rubber-stamp mode, if even that.

    It appears that that’s exactly what Alan Levin wants.

    Which is why SB 3 must pass.

    While there may be a lot that we don’t know about Kinder Morgan, there’s a lot that we DO know.

    None of it good, IMHO.

  3. Norinda says:

    The Democratic Process is at stake here. The port has been supported by almost 100 years by the Delaware taxpayer and responsible for 16,000 jobs, $337 million is business revenue and $31 million in annual local taxes. The negative economic and environmental impact will ressonate the state and surrounding community indefinitely. There is a lot at stake for Alev Levin not to think this deal needs public transparency and legislative approval. Keep the port operations in the hands of the Delawarean taxpayer!

  4. SB 3 passed with only 11 yes votes.

    This means that Markell/Levin are actively opposing legislative input into this deal. Which means there’s stuff that they don’t want anybody to see.

    They ‘announced’ the ‘preferred partner’ during a Friday news dump, and they’re trying to get this contract signed with Kinder Morgan before any real public consideration of the deal and its consequences.

    People need to pay attention to this. We all know that Pete Schwartzkopf is Jack’s boy. If his first significant legislative move as Speaker is to prevent legislative oversight of this hasty arrangement, it will define his speakership.

    Yo, Jack, why are you trying to ramrod this through? Why are you hiding on this one when you’re ubiquitous the rest of the time?

  5. cassandra_m says:

    So how do we find out how the votes came down? I’m interested in seeing who in the Senate thinks that the Executive Branch needs a blank check for handing over taxpayer assets.

  6. Well, Cass, ONE thing hasn’t changed with Blevins’ ascent to Pro-Tem. The Senate STILL doesn’t post roll calls by members immediately following votes. Just the final tally.

    A. Joke.

    BTW, this is just speculation on my part, but I betcha that Markell put on the full-court press in the Senate b/c he didn’t want Pete to have to play the roll of Jack’s faithful manservant while still in his weakened state due to the leadership battle in the House.

  7. DAL says:

    11-9-1 vote, All dems voted for it, except Venables,Bushweller “abstained”.

  8. Well, that just came up in the last ten minutes then. I was checking that vote since it was first announced.

    So, not a single Rethug voted for that bill. Not one. Bloviator Greg Lavelle practically screams for a Federal investigation when a penny-ante prison labor program catches the spotlight, but neither he, nor any of his R brethren, display the least bit of interest in a gargantuan deal that will affect the state, city, and thousands of Delawareans.

  9. SussexWatcher says:

    So if the real Dems voted for it, that means Markell’s strength in the Senate is for shit, right?

  10. cassandra_m says:

    Who’d a thunk it! Republicans voting for unchecked State power. Especially Lavelle.

  11. Interesting question, SW. Perhaps a few members of that caucus did not appreciate the Markell/DeLuca alliance. Although, only 11 of 13 D senators voted for the bill.

    I’m really surprised that no R’s crossed over. Do they really want a D governor to have unfettered power? Maybe all that they really want is a campaign issue.

  12. SussexWatcher says:

    Unless the unspoken deal is that they won’t raise a fuss when the agreement comes back before them for approval. Then it wouldn’t matter.

  13. anon says:

    The vote was 11 yes,1 not voting and the remainder, no. Venables was a no and Bushwaller went not voting. A’ll Republicans voted no.

  14. ugh, thanks for the link to the vote.

    This is probably being sold to GOP as a nice solid pro-union bill and that’s why they’re in lock-step against it.

    Kinder Morgan, like the new Delaware City Refinery owners, will likely immediately halve worker hourly rates or worse.

    From the Kinder Morgan track record, they’ll eliminate the fixed pension obligations from the state and shift to 401K.

  15. MarkNewark says:

    I wonder why Venables was the exception….anything to do with his position on the DSPC board?