Bill of the Week

Texans in space

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 4, 2011

House Bill 245

Filed: Nov. 12. Now pending in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, Feb. 28.
Author: Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine

This being Texas, it's not surprising to see a bill limiting liability filed in the Legislature. It's a little rarer to see one about rocket ships. As bill co-author Rep. Tryon Lewis, D-Odessa, told the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, commercial space flight "is an industry which [has], I guess the term is, 'not taken off yet.'" HB 245 proposes a waiver for space tourists, limiting all damages to gross negligence or intentional injury. Florida, Virginia, and New Mexico already have similar laws, and Gallego's bill is intended to keep Texas in a growing industry. Gallego and Sen. Carlos Uresti introduced a similar bill in 2009, but it blew up on the launchpad during the Democrats' famous chubbing of the voter ID bill. Since then, the market has gotten more competitive. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' firm Blue Origin currently owns a launch facility in Gallego's district in Culberson County and is working on both orbital and suborbital vehicles. Virgin boss Richard Branson is also investing in the field, while California-based SpaceX is launching test payloads.

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