In Spaceport we trust: Liability protection heads to Gov’s desk

From Capitol Report New Mexico - A bill that would extend liability protections to Virgin Galactic and other spacecraft manufacturers in case of accidents at Spaceport America is heading to the desk of Gov. Susana Martinez. On Monday (March 11), the state House of Representatives on a 62-0 vote passed Senate Bill 240, which applies to the facility in southern New Mexico that state taxpayers spent $240 million to construct.
     “It’s a good promise for New Mexico,” Rep. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, told New Mexico Watchdog. “It means we’re going to move forward on this thing.”
     Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant at Spaceport, has made veiled threats of pulling up stakes and leaving New Mexico and taking its scheduled sub-orbital launches of tourists to other states that have instituted liability protections for manufacturers unless New Mexico followed suit.
     Under the bill, the protections would go to spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers, as long as they carry liability insurance policies of at least $1 million. Victims who live or have property off the Spaceport grounds can still sue in case of any disaster. Rep. White said the bill has a sunset provision that concludes in 2022.
     Before the current 60-day session started, Gov. Martinez urged the legislature to pass the liability bill as a way to help ensure that Spaceport becomes a financial plus for the state.
     “For two years, Gov. Martinez has called for legislation that makes New Mexico a more competitive place for commercial spaceflight and protects the investment taxpayers have already made in Spaceport America,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said in a statement. “This measure is long overdue, and she is hopeful that it will improve New Mexico’s competitiveness in this industry.” Read more