Legislators mull new language in Space Flight Act

 

The Georgia Space Flight Act, House Bill 734, will go through another round of hearings as legislators in Atlanta consider new language changes in the bill.

The next hearing by the state House of Representatives’ judiciary committee is tentatively slated for Tuesday, Feb. 23. At press time on Wednesday, the time of the meeting had not yet been announced.

Opponents of the bill spoke out about it at past hearings, complaining that the proposed law would remove legal protections currently enjoyed by Georgians.

The bill was authored by state Rep. Jason Spencer (District 180), who represents the majority of Camden County. He also is a resident of Harrietts Bluff, where the county government hopes to construct a commercial spaceport and aerospace complex. The bill, however, would apply to any space flight operation in the state.

“Having this proposed law in place serves as a powerful message to industry that Georgia is open for space business, and wants a piece of the $330 billion (and growing) annual market,” Spencer wrote in a recent email. “Government should be as responsive to economic development needs and we should move at the speed of business rather than impeding progress as government is known to do too often.”

Spencer has said this law would put Georgia on equal footing with other states that are competing for commercial aerospace business. However, several people have complained that Georgia will gain that competitive advantage at the expense of those who live near the site. 

Critics of the bill complained that it would remove any legal recourse for those who may experience “nuisance noise” during launches. 

Spencer countered that the bill is intended to protect space companies from frivolous lawsuits, which are usually filed using state tort laws. 

In a written release on Sunday, he outlined the wording changes to the bill as it is currently written.

The new draft removes language that would have prohibited local governments from subjecting space operators from local noise control ordinances. 

“While this is seen as a protection from an industry perspective, allowing local governments to address noise issues locally is likely the best policy,” he wrote. 

The new draft also would give residents or business owners a two-year window after the first rocket launch in which to file a nuisance claim.  Anyone currently living or operating a business near the site would be grandfathered in, but anyone else moving to the area would be barred from making a claim. 

“This change in language will introduce more due process and give current property owners a chance to redress any grievances should such space flight operation introduce an intolerable nuisance to the area,” Spencer wrote.

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