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  • Mark Greenberg / Clay Observatory

    Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo glides in for a landing after its first test flight over the Mojave Desert in 2010, carrying California closer to private commercial spaceflight, with a potential for creating new jobs and making technological advancements.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, of the 23rd Congressional District serves as majority whip in the House of Representatives.

  • State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, represents the 21st District in the California Senate.

Viewpoints: Guard aerospace innovators' freedom to create in California

Published: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 8:56 am

California has long been a hotbed of innovation, where individuals came with a dream and the opportunity to make the unthinkable into reality. Our state is leading the way in an exciting new industry – private commercial spaceflight, with the potential to create new jobs and new technological advancements.

The world witnessed another historic achievement above the skies of Mojave as SpaceShipTwo's hybrid rocket motor propelled it to supersonic speeds in its first-ever flight test, marking another step closer to safe and routine access to space.

Together, we represent the Antelope Valley, which has a long history in aerospace breakthroughs. It is the location where then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. It is where the Rutan Voyager was designed and built before successfully flying around the world without refueling. And now it is leading the way in private spaceflight with SpaceShipOne and now SpaceShipTwo.

As we see entrepreneurs such as Burt Rutan and Richard Branson dare to achieve the unthinkable, we must ensure that they have the freedom to innovate and create without government making their lives more difficult. Our fear is that soon, because of California's increasingly onerous regulatory climate, other more business-friendly states will offer better incentives and opportunities for these companies to relocate this burgeoning industry – an industry that has already had a significant and tangible impact on California's economy.

We need to simplify the lives of our innovators so they can focus on pushing the envelope, and not on pushing endless streams of paperwork from Sacramento and Washington bureaucracies. They should have a business environment that gives them the freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail and the freedom to take risks. We believe it is essential that state and federal laws focused on this new industry enable innovators with the tools they need to grow.

Last Congress, the House extended the Federal Aviation Administration learning period for spaceflight regulation through 2015. As a part of the FAA's reauthorization bill, this key provision granting regulatory certainty to the commercial spaceflight industry serves to allow for several years of flight testing and early commercial operation of new human spaceflight vehicles.

Last year, the California Legislature passed the Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law, assisting space tourism firms by providing limited indemnification. The California Senate is now considering Senate Bill 415 to extend the liability limitation to manufacturers and suppliers, which is critical to ensure that California stays competitive with states such as New Mexico and Texas.

If we are truly committed to economic prosperity, we need to continue to reduce over-regulation and over-litigation. As Californians, rather than allowing California's unfriendly business climate to restrict opportunity and increase costs that stifle future innovation, we must instead champion solutions that create a new business climate that preserves the California Dream, where an individual can still dream big, take risks and make the impossible a reality.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, of the 23rd Congressional District serves as majority whip in the House of Representatives. State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, represents the 21st District in the California Senate.

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