Speaker Pete Burying Port Bill?

Filed in National by on January 19, 2013

Signs point to yes.

On Wednesday, January 16, the Senate passed Senate Bills 1, 2, and 3:

http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/LAH147.NSF/65d260a8f0fbce13852572360055cafe/f4c55b7e0e893ce785257af600176dee?OpenDocument

Senate Bill 1, which pertains to the Bank Franchise tax, was assigned to the House Business Uber Alles Committee, will be considered in committee on Wednesday, and likely voted on by Thursday.

Senate Bill 2, which is a tax break for a Dover theatre, was assigned to the House Housing and Community Affairs Committee, will be considered in committee on Wednesday, and likely voted on by Thursday.

Senate Bill 3, which would require legislative input for any deal concerning the Port of Wilmington…was not assigned to any committee. It was not ‘Laid on the Speaker’s Table’, which would permit a vote under rules suspension. (BTW, is it true that the term ‘laid on the table’ was officially banned from the Senate lexicon during the DeLuca years?)  SB 3 is officially sitting in limbo:

Would it be too great a stretch to point out how enabling Kinder Morgan to take over the Port might make it easier for their pipelines to navigate ‘many rivers to cross’? Thought so.

Did I point out that Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf alone determines the status of bills introduced in the House? He decides on committee assignments, he decides whether to bypass committees altogether on occasion, and he determines the timeline on committee consideration of bills by determining when to assign the bill. By delaying an assignment for SB 3, and, believe me, he did it on purpose, he makes it impossible for the bill to be considered in committee this week unless he also waives House rules requiring adequate public notice. He made sure that SB 1 and SB 2 could be considered with proper notice, and he made sure that SB 3 couldn’t.

If the Speaker is working with the Governor to bypass legislative consideration of this huge transaction, he is, in effect, conspiring against the concept of the General Assembly as a co-equal branch of government.

I think that’s exactly what he’s doing, and I thought that you should know as well. You know the drill, contact your state representative, and demand that they do their job even if the Speaker won’t. And, if you live in the City, you should probably contact Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, Gerald Brady, and J. J. Johnson, and ask them why they voted for a Speaker who is selling out their constituents.

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  1. Not railroading an important bill which deserves public input is not burying it or conspiring against the General Assembly. I am not fully defending the Speaker because I do not know what he will do in the future. Will he give it a fair hearing later in the year? I hope so. Should this be rushed when the economic viability of the area is impacted by the outcome? No. I can support taking a little time on this for public discussion. We need to hear all sides.

  2. Wrong, David. What’s being railroaded is the Port deal.

    According to Alan Levin, they hope to have a contract completed during February or early March. Guess what? After this week, the General Assembly is out of session until mid-March. That’s why the Governor and Levin are trying to run out the clock. Neither has expressed support for a legislative vote on the Port deal. They don’t want the General Assembly involved to ask questions about Kinder Morgan’s shady labor and environmental practices, the practical impact of this deal on the workers and their families, and the prospective environmental problems that this pipeline company could well bring to Delaware.

    The reason this bill is needed NOW is because mid-March will likely be too late.

    When it comes to ‘hear(ing) all sides’, that’s what SB 3 would ensure. Which is why Markell and Levin don’t want it.

  3. Nancy Willing over at Delaware Way writes that she’s heard that SB 3 has been assigned to the House Business Uber Alles Committee, and will be considered on Wednesday:

    http://delawareway.blogspot.com/2013/01/jobs-transparency-at-stake-in-assembly.html

    Hope she’s right. However, the official legislative record does not confirm what she’s heard.

    Time for a phone call or two…

  4. I’ve done some checking on this.

    The bill has not been assigned.

    I’ve been told by a reliable source that, should the bill be assigned to the House Business/Insurance Committee in a timely manner, then the committee will consider the bill on Wednesday.

  5. SANDFLY says:

    http://www.sightline.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/02/Coal-Kinder-Morgan-April-12_final.pdf

    Charles Brittingham Show, 1450am Sunday 7:00 -9:00pm with guest John Flagherty. Call in # 302 395-9456 .

    Please contact your legislators especially those in the House to bring SB#3 to floor for vote before the legislature goes on hiatus. Ir appears Pete Schwartzkoff is going to bury this bill. Call him and demand he bring this bill to the floor of the House.

    The privatization of the Port of Wilmington must have legislative oversight as the problems with Kinder Morgan are becoming well known. Kinder Morgan is “well known for blighting neighborhoods, fouling rivers, the company’s track record in the Northwest and beyond is one of pollution, law breaking and cover-ups”. This Texas based oil company, started by former Enron executive, has paid millions in EPA violations for oil spills, dumping toxic chemicals in water sources, coal dust in the communities and neighborhood explosions near pipelines.

    Delaware has one of the highest cancer rates in the nation and our community deserves transparent public live-stream hearings about the oil giant’s plan for our Port and their relationship with labor. Kinder Morgan has a long record of financial and environmental flaws, which it is suspected, will endanger jobs as well as adversely impact the environment of the Southbridge community and beyond.

    According to Sightline Institute, a non profit research center, Kinder Morgan is planning to export millions of tons of coal and natural gas to Asia and Europe.

    Please listen to WILM on Sunday night, make your voices heard and then contact representatives and tell them, “we the people of the State of Delaware own that port, it is a viable asset that should never be privatized”!

    There have been many promises that privatization of the Port will bring “new jobs” to the State but there are no job quality wage levels, full time positions, pension and availability of health care. Most often these “new jobs” often end up paying poverty wages!

    Save Our Port Coalition is demanding the legislature not only have oversight, but demand an independent accounting firm review the books for at least the last 5 yrs.

    Privatization can bind the hands of the policymakers for years, allowing private companies significant control of a privatized asset and the ability to dictate important policy decisions.

    While Gov. Markell and Alan Levin think they can get around the legislature the truth as reported by Senator Sokola is that the “sale of any state asset requires 2/3 vote in the Assembly”. “We all agree the legislature must have a vote”! “Is there a Public-Private Partnership-Joint Development Agreement loophole buried in the epilogue language that Alan Levin believes will allow the DSPC to avoid both public hearings and a vote on the lease or sale of state assets in this case”?

    We call on our citizens to call Gov. Markell and express your opinion. We believe Alan Levin has a conflict of interest as Port Chairman and Director of Economic Development to push this deal through no matter how it affects port workers, environmental impacts on our citizens, and selling off a viable State asset without public hearings, legislative oversight, and no independent audit!

  6. While Levin may have a conflict-of-interest, it’s also true that the DEDO director is automatically a member of the Diamond State Port Commission.

    What bothers me is that, while Markell and Levin throw around millions in subsidies to private enterprises w/o providing any kind of empirical evidence as to the return on said subsidies, they are downright stingy when it comes to providing dollars for even a crane for the Port. Why is that? Are they starving the Port in order to justify just this kind of partnership? Will they give $$’s to Kinder Morgan that they refuse to give to the Port now?

    I don’t know. Which is why I want the General Assembly to have the chance to get answers to these, and many more, questions.

  7. Just confirmed again that this is definitely going to be worked Wednesday. Probably won’t go up until Tues. with MLK on Mon.

  8. Venus says:

    Gotta love Lumpy Carson and HB 16 El Som. Splitting those liquor sales, because “beef and beer” are such quick fundraisers. That lobby sure knew who to take their case to and promote. If this wasn’t so funny by sponsorship, we’d all be sobered by “Children of Alcoholics Day/Week”. WTF??? From the sublime to ridiculous all in one week. Hell, I wouldn’t want to be commerating, celebrating, remembering, honoring, or reminding anyone they are a child of an alcoholic.

  9. While that’d be, at least unofficially, news to the chair of the committee, it’d indeed be good news.

    Here are the members of that Business/Insurance Committee:

    Chairman: Bryon H. Short (D)
    Vice-Chairman: Dennis E. Williams (D)

    Members: Paul S. Baumbach (D)
    Andria L. Bennett (D)
    Ronald E. Gray (R)
    S. Quinton Johnson (D)
    Helene M. Keeley (D)
    W. Charles Paradee (D)
    Harold J. Peterman (R)
    Michael Ramone (R)
    Jeffrey N. Spiegelman (R)

  10. SANDFLY says:

    Update from the Speaker himself:
    Forwarded Message —–
    From: Schwartzkopf Peter (LegHall)
    To: Elizabeth Allen
    Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 5:20 PM
    Subject: Re: PRIVATIZATION OF PORT TO BE DISCUSSED: WILM SUN EVE.

    Elizabeth,

    Why would you send an email out with comments about me when you have never even talked to me about it. As a matter of fact, before last Thursday, no one had contacted me at all about SB 3. And, until today, no one from the senate has talked to me about SB 3. That is not the way to get support for a bill that is being rammed through the legislature at lightning speed. Truth is not many people in the House even understands the issue as presented. I have no plans to bury the bill and I believe that the General Assembly should have an up or down vote on any proposal to lease part of the port. My issue is that I think it should slow down a little and let the House members be briefed and give the public of the whole state an opportunity to have a hearing on SB 3. I have as much a vested interest as you do in the port. My tax dollars help support the port and I have an interest in how it operates.

    Pete

  11. Assuming that Pete’s response is truthful, and I have no reason to doubt him, I want HIM to understand why swift House action is needed:

    “According to Alan Levin, they hope to have a contract completed during February or early March. Guess what? After this week, the General Assembly is out of session until mid-March. That’s why the Governor and Levin are trying to run out the clock. Neither has expressed support for a legislative vote on the Port deal. They don’t want the General Assembly involved to ask questions about Kinder Morgan’s shady labor and environmental practices, the practical impact of this deal on the workers and their families, and the prospective environmental problems that this pipeline company could well bring to Delaware.

    The reason this bill is needed NOW is because mid-March will likely be too late.”

    To me, SB 3 is the best way to ensure that the General Assembly has input. However, a joint resolution, that would reflect an official understanding between the General Assembly and the Governor, would serve the purpose equally well. (A joint resolution must be signed by the Governor, so it has the force of law.) Simple resolutions and concurrent resolutions do not require the Governor’s signature.

    Something, ANYthing, to protect the right of the legislative branch to consider such a momentous decision. And it needs to be done before a contract agreement is reached.

  12. AGREED. This bum’s rush meme is a bit tired.

    The rush is to get the Assembly positioned so that they DO have an opportunity to slow things down long enough to at least demand to review the terms of the contract and understand its implications for DE jobs and environment with Kinder Morgan in control.

    SB3 is a slow-down bill, not a hurry up bill.

  13. Norinda says:

    It is crucial Senate Bill #3 gets passed before the legislatures go out of session which is what
    Levin/Governor DO NOT want. Scwarzkoff appears to want to stall the process because of his
    strong ally of the governor. Transparency is at stake here. Stalling gives Levin more time to
    cut the deal will handicap the legislatures from being able to do much by then. Listen Delaware Liberal, Our Democracy is at Stake Here!
    Listen, the Port is a State Asset subsidized by the taxpayer. We do not even know how much Levin wants to sell the port for? Will Kinder Morgan get capital or bonds from the state to close the deal? I would assume that Levin will sell the port for less than its value being the Panama Canal project will be finished in 2014. It must be a back-door SWEAT DEAL!
    Privatization Business Schemes never benefit the working class-just shareholder profits.

    Privatized Prison Healthcare-ended up costing the state more in litigation fees due to poor substandard care
    Parking Meters- high ticket prices discourage people from comming in the city which hurts small businesses
    Toll Roads-Public indignation has forced the state of Virginia to buy back Dulles Toll Road. The cost went up
    151% when an company outside the US took over and the roads that were never maintained.
    Therefore, People took alternative routes and the company eventually went bankrupt. The state found
    they could maintain the roads at a cheaper cost than the Private Company.

  14. cassandra m says:

    Something, ANYthing, to protect the right of the legislative branch to consider such a momentous decision. And it needs to be done before a contract agreement is reached.

    So if the House does nothing to exercise their rights and at least make sure that the public has a chance to know what is going on, who gets the blame? Potter, Bolden and D.E. Williams? Because I know that Labor strongly supports at least two of them — so I’m hoping that the Labor reading this will be making their displeasure known.

  15. I think at the top of the list, after Schwartzkopf, will be the city D’s who voted for Schwartzkopf as speaker. Potter, Bolden, Brady and JJ Johnson (who is not from the city, but represents a key portion of it).

    It is probably up to THEM, more than any other legislators, to get Pete to have this bill considered. After all, their constituents are more disproportionately affected by the proposed transaction. And Pete owes them.

  16. SANDFLY says:

    Has anyone noticed that all the Senate Republicans voted for the Liven Bill in lock-step? Just like Liven appearded on Rick Jensen’s show after El-som was on Al show raising all kinds of questions. I think Liven has put the Gov in a bad light with this uninformed take over of public property without any proper examination like audits, enviornmental impact studies and what the property is truly worth. Hell, the company is a real shady outfit as well.

  17. Norinda says:

    I agree that an Independant Expert Panel: accounting audit, environmental impact and public health impact studies, port economist and people who just use their common sense would be of great value. It is too risky to rush in a long-term lease with a company with a poor environmental, workplace safety and labor record as Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan is one of the largest transporter of fossil fuels (oil & natural gas) which has contributed to global warming. Governor Markell seems to think natural gas is “clean energy.” Not True!!!

    What would it take to transform the whole country’s electric grid–to shut down all of its old power plants, and move to a system that generates electricity exclusively from clean energy renewable resources?  German political parties of every stripe are now backing a plan that is expected to nearly end that country’s use of fossil fuels by 2050.

    What is lacking in American discourse.  A sense of community and shared responsibility for the Common Good.

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