SANTA FE (KRQE) —
After two years of takeoff delays, a Spaceport America liability bill appears clear to launch.
The New Mexico House unanimously approved a bill that would give space industry companies, including parts manufacturers, some protection from lawsuits.
Under the compromise deal, companies would have to buy $1 million worth of liability insurance.
The Senate passed an identical version of the bill earlier this session, also unanimously.
Because the proposals originated in different chambers, either the House or the Senate still has to pass the other's bill before it goes to the governor's desk.
"I think the statement is not only to the industry but to the people of New Mexico that we can collaborate and get together to find common ground on key issues that protect state investment dollars," said House Minority Leader Rep. Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs.
"I f we can get this thing off the ground -- pun intended -- we can really build a job base that will allow our kids to stay and get high quality jobs," said Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces.
Virgin Galactic, which has just started paying rent in New Mexico, has butted heads with the Spaceport Authority in recent weeks. In a letter to the authority, Virgin Galactic complained about the condition of some parts of the spaceport saying the company was paying rent "under protest".
Thursday there was little sign of lingering bitterness over that issue.
Virgin Galactic released the following statement:
We thank the New Mexico legislature for its rapid passage of this important legislation, and recognize the Governor for her leadership in making this issue a priority for the state. Throughout this process, we have emphasized the importance of bringing New Mexico into parity with states that are competing for space business. We believe this legislation is an important step toward making Spaceport America a successful, job-creating enterprise.
In a statement Gov. Susana Martinez says she'll sign the bill as soon as she gets it.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.