ATLANTA — A bill supporters of a Georgia spaceport say is critical in attracting commercial spaceflight operators passed the House overwhelmingly Monday.
The Georgia Space Flight Act, House Bill 734, went airborne by a vote of 164-8. Now it heads to the Senate.
Sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the bill would require rocket ship passengers to sign away any claims against the commercial operator and its suppliers if something goes wrong. He said competing states like Texas and Florida already have similar laws.
“You’re talking about people who can actually stroke a check for $300,000 up to $20 million to go into space,” he said. “So, we’re not talking about people who are not informed about the inherent risks of spaceflight.”
Anyone on the ground who is injured or suffers property damage will still be able to sue and could collect from the insurance required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The version that passed the House is different from what Spencer originally introduced. He agreed to remove controversial provisions that would have kept area residents from taking spaceflight operators to court over noise or nuisance violations. Even the head of Spencer’s own neighborhood homeowners association fought that provision when the bill was being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
During Monday’s debate in the House, no one spoke against the bill. Two lawmakers from nearby districts spoke in favor of it, arguing their areas could benefit from some of the spillover jobs.
“This bill will supply some economic impact to areas north of you that will have a benefit,” said Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, who admitted to being an “unlikely ally” to Spencer.
Rep. John Corbett, R-Lake Park, argued the bill would tell spaceflight operators that Georgia is eager for their business. He promised that money Camden County had already put toward building a spaceport on idle industrial land would pay off.
“I can guarantee you’ll see the return on that investment, that $2 million, skyrocket,” he said.