Space Day in Florida, space legislation advances in Texas

Space industry supporters, backed by two former astronauts, held their annual Space Day in the Florida Legislature on Wednesday, seeking support for legislation to make the state more competitive for space businesses. This includes securing $10 million in funding for Space Florida as well as passing legislation to provide tax credits for spaceflight projects. The bill, SB 1224 in the Florida Senate and HB 873 in the Florida House, would provide $10 million in non-transferable and $25 million in transferable corporate income tax credits per year, although they cannot be claimed before October 2015. Supports said there’s a good chance the legislation will be enacted given support from key legislators and because “business incentives aimed at creating jobs are sure to appeal to Gov. Rick Scott,” according to Sunshine State News.

Another space-related bill expected to win passage in Florida is SB 652/HB 703, which would amend the state’s existing law that provides immunity to spaceflight operators by repealing a 2018 sunset date for the law that was in the original legislation. Similar legislation is also making its way through the Texas Legislature. On Tuesday the Texas Senate unanimously passed SB 115, which would provide immunity for spaceflight operators in Texas. The legislation was uncontroversial enough members were cracking Star Trek jokes prior to voting on the bill, the Austin American-Statesman reported. This is the second time the state’s senate has approved such legislation: a similar bill, SB 2105, won unanimous approval from the Texas Senate in 2009 but died in the Texas House.

5 comments to Space Day in Florida, space legislation advances in Texas

  • Jeff Foust wrote:

    Supports said there’s a good chance the legislation will be enacted given support from key legislators and because “business incentives aimed at creating jobs are sure to appeal to Gov. Rick Scott,” according to Sunshine State News.

    I wouldn’t count on that. One of the first things Scott did after taking office is propose cutting funding for Space Florida from $31 million to $10 million.

    It’s interesting that the news article states the “space industry supporters” asked for $10 million for Space Florida, because that sounds like they’re backing Scott’s proposal to slash Space Florida’s budget by two-thirds.

  • There’s more than a little confusion about Space Florida’s budget. The ~$30 million they got last year included mostly one-time money that no one expected to see as a recurring budget item. The $10 million proposed by Gov. Scott is more in line with the agency’s request. Blame Florida Today for making a story out of the “reduction”. Space Florida should be happy (and would be lucky) to get $10 million when the dust settles in Tallahassee.

  • amightywind

    State marketing initiatives like Space Florida are not likely to pay for themselves. It smells like a handout to SpaceX. Scott is right to ax it. Florida’s greatest asset is the geography of Cape Canaveral and the range facilities there. Provide a generally favorable tax climate and businesses will readily locate there. Florida already does that. But since NASA has no HSF development effort why would new businesses flock there now?

  • Edward Ellegood wrote:

    Space Florida should be happy (and would be lucky) to get $10 million when the dust settles in Tallahassee.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Florida Today had a different take in its Feburary 9 editorial:

    Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a state budget Monday that should make space advocates nervous.

    It mixes deep cuts to Space Florida, the state’s space-recruiting arm, and uncertainty about how the agency might tap into a proposed pool of economic development money.

    The agency’s budget was reduced two-thirds, from $31 million to $10 million, with Scott eliminating funds dedicated to improving infrastructure and financing to help attract private space firms.

    Some say it might be able to make that up by gaining access to an economic development pool of perhaps $300 million that Scott is setting up, but right now his plan is void of details.

    That’s the worst signal to send with the end of the shuttle program at hand and thousands of workers losing their jobs.

  • David Teek

    It is I suppose comforting that Windy is as wrong about Florida issues as he is about national issues.

    Some of the confusion probably resulted from the initial Scott budget documents being in different format (had a two year framework and other differences), and Space Florida’s program funding moving from the grants and aid category to economic development category, so when you just looked at the G&A line, all you saw was a $10 m cut.

    The additional funding last year was for a mix of business support (mostly new tech activities that will result in job creation) and infrastructure projects at the spaceport to support new commercial users and tenants. This is almost certain to be continued at a generally comparable level, but the funding approval process and color of money may change.

    It is likely that a balance will be struck between the legislatures desire for detailed control on where appropriated funds go and the Governor’s desire to have flexibility to allocate incentives based upon agency performance and what opportunities being proposed provide the most bang for the buck. If I had to guess the outcome, it would be some kind of a floor for the sectors (tourism, enterprise, space, sports, film, etc.), and another pot they would compete to place projects in. Who knows, it’s early.

    Beyond that, Space Florida is not a primarily marketing agency, but it does have a commercial focus. Main activities are assisting businesses get access to capital (mostly from banks and investors with some state match in some cases) and building facilities needed for new commercial operations or contractor programs (again, mostly using lease financing but some state investment in some cases). Nearly $500 million in facility improvements have been built over 20 years, most of which was done by applying an airport authority development approach to spaceport improvements.

    Facility customers have included Lockheed Martin (Titan IV, Atlas V, Athena and Orion), Boeing (Delta IV HIF), SpaceX (mission control offices and some pad equipment), Starfighters F-104 operations at the SLF, the Visitor Center (Apollo Saturn V Center & Shuttle Launch Experience) and ISS Life Sciences (Space Life Sciences Lab) and a few others.

    (Yes, I know Atlas V and Delta IV are now ULA, they weren’t at the time the projects were done).

    The spaceport and space launch is and has been a largely tax free – the policy decision made in 1989 was to not start imposing taxes as the launch industry (through both EELV and new space systems) moved from the government program to the commercial provider model. Come to Florida and spend your money!

    Commercial Crew is Human Space Flight and will be managed by KSC. Purely commercial Human Space Flight (orbital and suborbital) will also be a growth sector that will attract and enable new enterprises. However, while there are bright long-term prospects, there are horrible near-term possibilities, especially if Congress keeps slicing elements from NASA’s budget or goes back to 2008 levels.

    Whatever happens with SLS and whenever it happens, we need more launches that cost less. And we need to be working on using the spaceport as a national technology development and commercialization center. We have many of the best engineers in the world.

    And the 45th Space Wing will tell you range technology facilities and technology really should be upgraded, harder to make it a priority when you are fighting two (one and a half?) wars.

    The state has an important role to play in helping provide pathways for new commercial activities that exploit the federal investment, but this is a national capacity and competitiveness issue that is much broader than the NASA program issues, and deserves a coordinated multi-year, multi-agency reinvestment strategy. State and industry investments can be a part of that.

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