Renewed Spaceflight Immunity Pitch Hits Turbulance in New Mexico

An effort by Spaceport America officials to get legal immunity extended to spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers hit a patch of rough air last week during a hearing held by two interim legislative panels in Truth or Consequences last week.

Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson told lawmakers that the bill’s failure in the 2012 Legislature was a key reason behind one company’s decision to locate its headquarters in Florida — a state that already has OK’d the legal immunity being proposed. New Mexico is at risk for losing more potential spaceport clients, she said.

“It’s important we remain competitive,” she told lawmakers, who hashed out the topic late in the afternoon. “We can’t have a spaceport with only one tenant.”

Anderson referred to the Britain-based Virgin Galactic, which has an agreement in place with New Mexico to launch tourists to suborbital space from the state-owned Spaceport America….

Presenter David Jaramillo, member of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association and lobbyist for the group, argued against the proposal, saying the right of residents to seek legal remedies for their injury shouldn’t be curtailed to attract businesses.

“At what cost does New Mexico want to sacrifice its public policy in exchange for hypothetical economic development?” he asked.

New Mexico already has a law that grants immunity from litigation to spacecraft operators except in cases of gross negligence and intentional harm. However, an effort to extend those protections to spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers failed earlier this year.

The Legislature will not meet again in full session until 2013.

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