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Senate set to ‘streamline’ Space Florida financing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Space Florida, the state’s aerospace arm, would bypass governor and Cabinet approval to issue revenue bonds, under a measure now ready for a Senate vote.

With little discussion, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday backed a proposal (SB 1070) that would allow the public-private agency to issue revenue bonds or any other type of debt, including bank loans, without the currently required three-fourths approval of the governor and Cabinet.

The proposal also would repeal a requirement that Space Florida advise House and Senate presiding officers and appropriations chairs before presenting a bond proposal to the governor and Cabinet.

Bill sponsor Tom Wright said the proposal is intended to “streamline” the bonding process.

“As you all know, the Legislature has previously set forth financing responsibilities for Space Florida, a special district, in order to do what they need to do to improve our space industry,” Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, said.

According to a staff analysis of the bill, Space Florida and its predecessor organizations have entered into debt-financing transactions with banks totaling nearly $1 billion.

“Proceeds from these financings have been used to make infrastructure improvements, construct facilities, and acquire machinery, equipment and tooling necessary by Florida’s aerospace and defense industrial base and government partners like NASA and the USAF,” Keevin Williams, Space Florida’s vice-president of special projects said in December, according to the bill analysis.

Space Florida, which would still not be able to issue general obligation bonds, received $16.5 million from the state for the current fiscal year.

In July, the agency received a $90 million federal transportation grant to help the state replace the 55-year-old drawbridge over the Indian River Lagoon that links Cape Canaveral to the mainland and to widen Space Commerce Way. The road is a main access to Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex and Exploration Park, a business park operated by Space Florida.

The House unanimously approved a similar measure (HB 717) on Feb. 26.