Senators launch several space-related bills

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Wednesday was Space Day at the Florida Capitol, the first since the end of NASA’s space shuttle program. As space industry leaders and advocates from across the state speak to lawmakers in Tallahassee about the importance of Florida’s aerospace industry, Republicans in the Florida Senate are helping take the lead to diminish economic impacts resulting from the program’s end and to boost opportunities for high-tech jobs in the Sunshine State.

“The end of the shuttle program was a significant setback for our state,” said Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says creating a healthy atmosphere for aerospace-related businesses, whether private spaceflight or research and development companies, adds to Florida’s current job-creation efforts.

“We want to encourage more companies to move to Florida, so they can benefit from all we have to offer and so Florida can benefit from the positive impact on job growth and tourism,” said Gardiner. “Republican lawmakers have come forward to craft legislation to support Florida’s changing space industry.”

Senate Republican-sponsored bills already making their way through the legislative process include Senate Bill 110 by Senator Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville. His bill updates the inventory of existing spaceport territories in the state by designating the property Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville as a “spaceport territory.” It also permits the board of directors of Space Florida to designate real property within the state as a spaceport territory if the property has been licensed by the FAA as a spaceport.

Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, is the sponsor of a bill aimed at allowing spaceport facilities to more appropriately utilize funding due to the changing needs of Florida’s aerospace industry. Passing the Senate unanimously Tuesday, SB 634 provides the framework for infrastructure funds to be spent on applicable space projects in its master plan. Current definitions within Florida Statutes relating to spaceport infrastructure are unclear and, in many cases, inaccurate, as they are based on airport-specific definitions.

Also up this year is SB 934, a bill relating to Space Florida by Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Palm Beach. SB 934 exempts Space Florida from s. 216.181(16)(b), F.S., which limits advance payments received by an agency. This bill would allow Space Florida to receive advanced payments for infrastructure improvements to current infrastructure projects.

Senator Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, remains a longtime space industry proponent and is the sponsor of SB 1110 relating to tax refund programs. Altman’s bill removes the maximum amount of tax refunds a recipient of either the Qualified Defense Contractor and Spaceflight Business tax refund program or the Qualified Target Industry tax refund program may receive.

“Preserving and boosting our state’s space industry is at the forefront of discussions this year because of the importance the industry has played in Florida’s history and the role it will play in Florida’s future,” added Gardiner. “I am pleased to see members working to create an environment in which space-related businesses can thrive.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.