Ethan Orr’s special interest bill for space tourism

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Arizona Republic's Political Insider had a bit of fun mocking Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) on Sunday:

Tucson, we have a problem ... The Arizona Legislature has yet to agree on how to stop texting and driving, fix the state’s broken child-protection agency or improve K-12 education. But it’s apparently all over the whole space-travel thing.

Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, has introduced a bill that would assure a company is not legally liable for any injuries, emotional distress or death a space-flight participant may incur if the participant signed a liability release.

Next up, proposed regulations for teleporting.

Beam me up, Scotty.

Ha!Ha! You guys at the Republic are hilarious. The only problem is your superficial reporting in an attempt to reduce politics to humor ignores the obvious: legislators don't file these kinds of bills unless they are carrying it on behalf of a special interest, probably one that is a contributor to his or her campaign.

For serious news reporting on this story, we have to turn to the Phoenix Business Journal. Mike Sunnucks reports, Space: The final frontier, but not for lawyers – The Business Journals:

A bill at the Arizona Legislature would give space flight companies — yes space flight companies — protections against being sued.

The measure is aimed at helping possible space tourism and commercial space flights being planned in southern parts of the state.

HB 2163 (.pdf) creates some legal protections for commercial and private space flight companies by codifying liability release forms the companies could have passengers sign.

Capsule“This is actually important,” said Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “Arizona, especially Southern Arizona, is in the Space Flight Corridor that extends from Texas to California. One of my members in Tucson, Paragon Space Development Corporation, is planning trips to the outer edges of space, to the moon and to Mars.” (h/t image)

Paragon is based in Tucson and wants to develop space flights. That could include a futuristic high altitude weather balloon-type craft that would fly just outside the earth’s atmosphere.

The company said such near-space flights could cost $75,000 per passenger. Paragon also develops commercial space suits and other technologies related to space travel.

A number of companies in the U.S. Southwest are developing space flight programs for wealthy tourists and commercial clients.

State Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, could not be reached for comment on the bill. Paragon could also not be reached for comment Friday.

While there are business and technology interests interested in the bill, that didn’t stop others from poking fun at an Arizona Legislature known for sometimes unusual bills.

“This really is a much-needed bill. Given how much time our Legislature spends on Pluto, I’d hate to see a series of lawsuits holding lobbyists responsible for the damages arising from a paid-for trip to outer space,” said Phoenix publicist David Leibowitz.

Ethan Orr does not have any current financial disclosure reports filed on the Secretary of State's web site, but I bet you will find in 2014 that he has campaign contributors associated with the Arizona Technology Council and Paragon Space Development Corp. for carrying this special interest bill for them.

As a lawyer, I oppose liability waivers. These space tourism companies are selling these flights to  über-rich clients who can afford some kind of accidental death insurance policy. The companies also should have to carry some sort of liability insurance, as does almost every other business in this country. You don't get to send people into space and simply say "Oops! So sorry" if they burn up on reentry.

One response to “Ethan Orr’s special interest bill for space tourism

  1. “This is actually important,” said Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.

    As opposed to a majority of bills that are presented in the Legislature!