Florida Space Research Institute Plan Advances in Legislature

The plan to create a new research institute led by Embry-Riddle University has advanced in the Florida Legislature:

Hours before a scheduled space shuttle launch, a bill intended to get Florida ready for jobs competition in the post-shuttle era rocketed out of a key House committee this morning. Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Orange Park, said the outlook is good for her proposal to create a multi-university institute for space-technology research. The planned institute will work with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other state and federal agencies on campuses and within the business community to keep Florida in the forefront of space exploration.

The new institute would be led by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has been pushing for the plan. The Orlando Sentinel reports that although the Florida House committee gave its blessing, it did not provide any money to fund it.

The proposal (HB 69) unanimously passed the House Economic Development Policy Committee on Wednesday, but only after it was amended to spell out that it would get no state dollars or state-funded staff.

Its backers, led by Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, had initially sought $500,000 to start up the institute.

The Space Transportation Research and Development Institute would partner with other universities to create a research-and-development hub. Embry-Riddle would seek federal funding over several years and eventually could seek state dollars.

There seems to be several reasons for the thrift. First, Florida’s budget is tight. Second, legislators are a bit weary of throwing millions of dollars more at aerospace because of their disappointment with the results produced by Space Florida, a state agency charged with promoting the industry. Critics say the agency is inefficient and has attracted few new jobs to the state.