Lawmakers advance plan for California Aerospace and Aviation Commission

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SAN FRANCISCO — California lawmakers are weighing a proposal to create a California Aerospace and Aviation Commission to recommend action the governor and state legislature could take to retain jobs and encourage the industry’s growth.

California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi is promoting legislation to create a California Aerospace Commission.
California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi is promoting legislation to create a California Aerospace Commission.

“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 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 referred to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. If it wins that committee’s approval, it moves to the Assembly floor for a vote. Still, the legislation needs to pass the California Senate before it makes its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.