New Mexico Governor to Renew Push for Expanded Informed Consent Law

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WhiteKnightTwo beside the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space in New Mexico. (Credit: David Wilson, Spaceport America)

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will make a renewed push to have an informed consent law extended to spacecraft manufacturers and supplier in order to make Spaceport America more competitive. An effort earlier this year failed due to the oppositi0n of trail lawyers.

The renewed push, set for next year’s legislative session, comes as news broke that the Mojave Air and Space Port in California is hiring former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is being hired as a consultant to get similar legislation pushed in the Golden State. The Albuquerque Journal reports:

Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, said, “Richardson is certainly free to consult or help with the spaceport activities of another state, but in New Mexico, this just highlights how important it is for us to ensure that we continue to lead in this industry by passing legislation in the upcoming session that prevents lawsuit abuse.”

Darnell said the legislation is “common sense, it means jobs and economic development, and it would protect the significant investment that taxpayers have already made in Spaceport America.”

He said the industry is an incredibly competitive industry – not just with regard to manned space flight, but with regard to manufacturing and research and development as well.

New Mexico’s current law protects spaceflight operators from being sued as long as they inform passengers ahead of time about the risks. Exceptions are allowed in cases of gross negligence or intentional harm.

The expanded protection for spacecraft suppliers and builders would benefit Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which is the anchor tenant at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. Virgin Galactic also owns the Spaceship Company, which is building the suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

New Mexico officials say that expanded protections are required in order to attract additional tenants to the $209 million spaceport. The tenants are necessary to make the facility self sufficient.