Knight bill awaits gov’s signature

Proponents hope legislation will revitalize state aerospace industry

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A bill aimed at maintaining California’s competitive edge in the commercial space industry awaits only a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblyman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), son of the late test-pilot-turned-politician Pete Knight, lead the charge in authoring Assembly Bill 2243, which received unanimous support from both houses in the state legislature, as well as the two judiciary committees.

“Until recently, human space travel was accomplished through government space agencies, with volunteer participants assuming liability for injury and damage,” said a statement released through Knight’s office. “AB 2243 provides limited liability for commercial space ventures to ensure innovators remain competitive in this promising marketplace.”

Knight credits Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stuart O. Witt (see related story on Witt’s contributions to the private space sector, this page) in helping to identify the need for, and scope of, the legislation.

“We got this idea through Stu and the many businesses he represents,” said Knight. “This was one of the issues they had in California.”

Four other states — Colorado, Virginia, Florida and Texas — have already passed similar bills.

Witt said the legislation puts California on the path to being on an even playing field with the other states developing operations in the booming industry.

“This is really a fledgling industry for entrepreneurs,” said Knight. “We want to give them the same protection that we provided to NASA and the U.S. government for the last 60 years.”

Witt said that historically California has led the nation in aerospace development. The industry draws high-end technician and engineering jobs. “We want to retain these in California,” said Witt. “This is a required first step in rebuilding aerospace production and operations in our state.”

He said he appreciated Knight’s support, as well as that of Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, state Sen. Jean Fuller and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Other Kern County politicos, including Kern County 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, added how critical passage of this bill would be for Kern County.

“AB 2243 is a critical piece of legislation for continued excellence in aerospace research and development in Kern County, as our local companies are constantly enticed to relocate to other states with the promise of lower taxes, less regulation and greater incentives,” said Scrivner, whose district includes Mojave.

“Kern County has been at the forefront of development in the private space industry,” said Grove, who stressed the importance of support efforts to keep companies in California.

“California must remain competitive in the private pursuit of space to preserve our legacy,” said Knight. He acknowledged that it was unusual for a bill to move through the California legislative process without facing any opposition.

“We worked really hard and talked to an awful lot of members.” Many of those were simply unaware of the challenges facing the industry, he said. “Thankfully, everyone understood the importance. Now we all we are waiting for is the governor’s desk.”

Gov. Brown has until the end of the month to sign the bill.

Story First Published: 2012-09-11