Jones proposes PPTA-port reforms

Published 11:38 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Suffolk’s voice in the state House of Representatives is the chief patron of eight transportation-related bills this legislative session, some of which would change the face of the Public-Private Transportation Act as it relates to port facilities.

Delegate S. Chris Jones (R-76th), who has said the state’s PPTA is broken and hurting Virginians, wants “port facility” struck from the law’s definition of a transportation facility and the Virginia Port Authority from the definition of a public entity.

The move marks a salvo against the commonwealth’s present entertaining of two bids from private entities under the PPTA to operate the lucrative Port of Virginia for up to 50 years.

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Under H.B. 1690, Maersk subsidiary APM and RREEF America, whose rival bid was recently taken over by a partnership involving JPMorgan, would have been excluded from using the law to launch what many regard as an attempted private takeover of existing critical public infrastructure.

Another Jones bill would prevent the VPA from accepting under the PPTA or the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act any unsolicited proposal for ownership or operation of any port facility.

Yet another bill introduced by the delegate would require General Assembly approval of any private leasing of state port facilities for 10 or more years.

Jones’ opposition to the long-term private leasing of port facilities is shared by many fellow state legislators as well as members of the shipping industry and the public at large.

That opposition will likely be outlined at a scheduled public hearing on the port proposals, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Nauticus Museum theatre in Norfolk.

Other transportation bills Jones has patroned would:

4Give any rival bidders 120 days to respond to any unsolicited PPTA proposal for a qualified transportation facility

4Direct the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission to study the “efficiency and sufficiency of funding” for transportation

4Have the commission conduct a one-year study of the “competitiveness, efficiency and governance structure” of the port

4Reform the VPA and Commonwealth Transportation boards

4Amend the state constitution to establish a separate and dedicated fund for transportation that may only be borrowed from for other purposes with a two-thirds-plus-one-member vote in each house, repayable with “reasonable interest” within four years

Meanwhile, the president of port operator Virginia International Terminals, which is competing against the private bidders for the right to continue in that role, announced his retirement on Tuesday.

After 34 years with VPA, including 25 with its private terminal-operations company VIT, Joe Dorto will make his departure at the end of March, a news release announced.

“You always hear, ‘Leave on a high note,’ and we just completed the second-best year in our history, so I think this is the right time,” stated Dorto, whose replacement by VIT Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joseph P. Ruddy is set to be determined by commissioners at a VPA board meeting on Tuesday.