Spaceport America Privacy Bill Advances in New Mexico Senate

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

A bill designed to shield information about Spaceport America from public scrutiny was approved unanimously by the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. The vote paves the way for the full Senate to consider the measure.

The bill had been previously approved by the Senate Public Affairs Committee without recommendation. It must pass the Senate and the House before the legislative session ends on Thursday.

The measure, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen (D-Las Cruces) and Sen. William F. Burt (R-Alamogordo), would limit access to information about spaceport customers. A customer is defined as someone “that is negotiating or has entered into a contractual or other agreement to utilize the services or facilities of the spaceport for aerospace and related activities.”

“Customer information shall be maintained as confidential and is exempt from inspection pursuant to the provisions of the Inspection of Public Records Act if and to the extent the customer informs the authority that all or part of the records relating to the customer are considered by the customer to contain sensitive, proprietary or confidential information.,” the bill states.

The documents covered by the measure include:

  • New Mexico Spaceport Authority records: “all documents, papers, letters, books, maps, tapes, photographs, recordings and other materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that are used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of the authority;”
  • customer information: “all records relating to a customer, the disclosure of which would reveal trade secrets or adversely affect proprietary interests of the authority or a customer;”
  • cyberinfrastructure information: “all records relating to the authority’s computing systems, data storage systems, advanced instruments, data repositories and visualization environments, including the authority’s network diagrams, cyber-vulnerability assessments and spaceport facility technology;” and,
  • security information: “all records relating to the physical security of the authority or a spaceport, including security logs, visitor logs, security manuals, security reports, security personnel data, security video footage and diagrams of security systems.”

Papen has argued that limiting public access to the records is key to keeping Spaceport America competitive with other spaceports around the country.

 

The Albuquerque Journal reports that not everyone is in favor of the bill.

Peter St. Cyr, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, called the proposed legislation overly broad.

He also said the Spaceport’s practice of blacking out certain lease payments in response to public records requests has already generated concern.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that taxpayers are stakeholders and have a right to know what’s going on in a facility they paid to build,” St. Cyr told the Journal.

Gov. Susana Martinez supports the measure. However, her chief of staff told the Journal the governor supports making all contract information public once the agreements are finalized.

A similar bill introduced did not make it out of committee last year .

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I loved this …. “Spaceport America competitive with other spaceports around the country.” …. Secrecy is not their problem, it’s geography. They’re too far from the ocean and too close to White Sands. …. If I were paranoid I’d start thinking this place is being used as a place to move money within the state gov by nature of it’s eternal loss of money. Why else keep this elephant alive? If people really do still have faith in the concept I’d sure like to try what they are smoking, it sounds fun.

  • OldCodger

    Secrecy and the expenditure of public money; a recipe for disaster, incompetence and corruption!

  • Hemingway

    Stupid decision. I never realized that my New Mexican legislators are so ignorant – rather depressing!

  • Andrew Zalotocky

    “Papen has argued that limiting public access to the records is key to keeping Spaceport America competitive”

    Let’s correct that:

    “Papen has argued that limiting public access to the records is key to making it look like Spaceport America is not just a money pit

  • Search

    I guess New Mexico is like old Mexico where investigative journalism has been silenced and politicians bought off. The headline should read “NM Legislature Agrees to Cloak Insider Swindles in Secrecy”

  • Search

    If you throw money into a pit you can at least go find it and get it back. No one will get any of THIS money back – it will be offshored within seconds of the funds hitting the private accounts.