State House members don't seem to want to make a decision on a Salt Palace expansion proposal during an election campaign and they don't want a special session.
Meanwhile, county officials are proceeding with plans to turn the facility over to private managers. About a dozen companies hoping to manage the Salt Palace toured the facility and attended a prebidding conference Wednesday while Republican and Democrat House members met in Salt Palace conference rooms to talk about the $15 million the state has been asked to contribute toward a $61 million expansion and renovation project.Representatives from both parties are divided on their support for the expansion - and for the timing of the funding request that has been mentioned repeatedly as an agenda item for a special legislative session.
A straw poll of Republicans showed 18 want to tell Gov. Norm Bangerter they don't want a special session regardless of whether the Salt Palace would be on the agenda. Fourteen others said they favor calling a special session.
Eleven of the Republicans signed a list indicating they would support the Salt Palace expansion request if a special session were called, while five said they were against the expansion proposal.
In the Democrats' caucus, one House member signed the list in favor of the proposal and none of the others attending signed at all. Members from both parties indicated their reluctance to sign the list that House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Salt Lake, said would be used to determine whether the proposal has enough support to get it on a special-session agenda.
The House members also expressed their concern about making additional spending plans before knowing how the referendum on sales tax on food will turn out.
House Speaker Nolan Karras he would just as soon defer the Salt Palace vote until the outcome of the food-tax referendum is known and after lame ducks like himself aren't voting.
Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, said the consensus of the Democrats is that they don't want a special session to address the Salt Palace issue. "I don't think we believe this is such a critical issue that we should spend taxpayer money to call a special session."
Atkinson said there a lot of mixed emotions about whether expanding the Salt Palace would attract new convention business as county officials and the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau have promised. "We've probably got a divided caucus on it. I just have to hear more about the issue before I vote on it."
The county's move to have a private management company run the Salt Palace is proceeding independent of the expansion issue. The fact that bidders have to have their proposals submitted to the county by July 13 complicates the bidding process because the would-be managers do not know whether they would be managing a facility that would be undergoing a major renovation.
Richard Davis, Convention and Visitors Bureau chief and interim Salt Palace manager, said the county plans to have a private manager chosen by Aug. 1.