Hughes says Biskupski is currently not part of inland port discussions, but she’s welcome to participate

At least for now, relationships between leaders in the Utah Legislature and Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski over the disputed inland port remain a bit frosty, is told.

GOP Speaker Greg Hughes says he and his colleagues are talking to the Salt Lake City Council, not the mayor, in trying to work out some agreements for the port, now planned for the city’s northwest quadrant.

Hughes, R-Draper, and Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, called an interesting press conference last week where they put forward several possible compromises over the port – which was adopted over the objections of the city at the end of the 2018 Legislature.

The council has sent Hughes et al. a letter saying they, not the mayor, will make the final decisions on any agreement.

And Hughes said he accepts that position and has had several meetings set up with council members, with more to come.

Biskupski is invited to join in, said Hughes.

“But we are moving ahead,” he added, with the council.

Through some back-channels, says Hughes, he’s heard from the city administration that some of the points of agreements with Dabakis are “non-starters.”

“What do you mean non-starters?” said Hughes.

“We’ve already started. We have a bill” adopted by the Legislature and GOP Gary Herbert “setting up the port board.”

Hughes appointed himself to the board – the speaker gets one appointment.

And he told UtahPolicy that he’s willing to be named the chairman of the board when it meets for the first time later this month.

“I would entertain” being named chairman by other board members, Hughes said.

He is leaving office in December but plans on being active on the inland port authority board for some time after that.

While progress is being made, says Hughes, he can’t tell yet whether the negotiations with the City Council will develop far enough to ask Herbert to call a special session of the Legislature this year – where changes can be made to the port authority board and its powers.

If not, any changes to the port law will have to wait until January 2019’s general session – and Hughes will not be in office or the speaker then.

“No one is going to get all they want” in the negotiations, said Hughes.

But his goal is to get “all the stakeholders” feeling comfortable as the work of the authority board goes forward.

At present, Biskupski is not part of that discussion, with Hughes saying he’s glad to work with members of the City Council to see what can be agreed upon.

“We are having frank discussions, and working on this sooner rather than later,” he added.