California legislators move forward bill to create California Aerospace Commission

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SAN FRANCISCO — The California Assembly Appropriations Committee approved plans January 18 to create a California Aerospace and Aviation Commission, which would serve as a central point of contact for the industry and recommend actions the governor and state legislature could take to retain jobs and encourage the industry’s growth.

“The goal is to bring together the stakeholders and bring together policy recommendations so we can continue to grow and lead the nation and the world in innovation, advanced manufacturing and job creation,” California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, chairman of the California Assembly’s Select Committee on Aerospace and author of the legislation, told SpaceNews.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. (LAEDC) backs the plan. “It sends message to the aerospace community that the state hears and sees what’s happening in the industry and wants to protect it and grow it,” said Judy Kruger, LAEDC’s aerospace industry development director. “It also sends a message outside the state of California.”

Other states offer generous financial packages to encourage California aerospace companies to relocate. Moon Express, for example, moved from Mountain View, California, to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2015 after announcing a deal with Space Florida, an economic development agency, to share the cost of refurbishing launch facilities.

“California needs something that looks like Space Florida, something that connects Sacramento to this growing new space phenomenon here in California,” said Sean Casey, managing director of the Silicon Valley Space Center. “California seems to be losing to other states that are more aggressive in their approach to acquiring companies.”

If the pending legislation passes, the California Aerospace and Aviation Commission would differ from Space Florida in one important way. Space Florida has a $19.5 million budget while California Assembly Bill 427 would not direct any state funding to the new commission. Instead, the commission would be supported by public and private donations to a California Economic Development Fund Aerospace and Aviation Account.

Muratsuchi who introduced the legislation in 2017 said he has worked for a year to “flesh out the ideas and build support for the bill,” which passed out of the California Assembly’s Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy on January 9 and was approved Jan. 18 by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. Next, the bill moves to the Assembly floor for a vote. The legislation still needs approval in the California Senate before it makes its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.