Port of Wilmington oversight bill up for vote

As the state considers privatizing or leasing all, or part, of the Port of Wilmington to bidder Kinder Morgan, state lawmakers are poised to vote on a bill they hope creates some middle ground for all parties involved.

The measure amends Senate Bill 3, which, in its original form, requires the Diamond State Port Corporation to get approval from the General Assembly and the governor before transferring, privatizing or leasing any part of the Port of Wilmington.

Diamond State Port Corporation is a quasi-government agency that owns and operates the port.

House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, announced the change, Wednesday, that modifies the General Assembly approval process by having any final proposal come before the Joint Bond Bill Committee for review. The committee would then brief the full General Assembly, which would take an up-or-down vote on the proposal as presented.

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“I absolutely think the General Assembly needs to have a say in any final decision involving the port,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf. “This compromise will hopefully satisfy all sides and put a process in place that accomplishes our goal without hurting the future of the port.”

While port chairman and Delaware Economic Development Office Secretary Alan Levin believes any legislative action is premature, since there is not a firm offer from energy company Kinder Morgan, he called the amendment “fair.”

“The Bond Bill Committee is probably the best forum to review this action because they are most familiar with the port, this is the group that supplies the bond bill, capital needs for the port every year,” said Levin, who adds it’s not easy balancing the interests of the state, unions, customers and suppliers of the port.

“We’re trying to do what we can to make it a win-win for everyone.” 

The measure squeaked through the Senate last week and is up for a vote today in the House. If the amendment is approved, the bill returns to the Senate for consideration.

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