Mass’s $1 Billion Biotech Bill Likely Stalled for the Year, House Speaker Says

11/20/07

Things aren’t looking so good for Governor Deval Patrick’s $1 billion life sciences initiative, according to the Boston Globe. There’s just a day left before the state legislature closes shop for the calendar year, and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi told a Globe reporter that Patrick’s life sciences bill doesn’t have a great chance of advancing by tomorrow’s end.

The likely delay comes as perhaps a bit of a surprise, given the legislative love fest Xconomist Willy Lensch witnessed when he testified as part of a joint hearing on the bill a few weeks back. Then again, folks from the Governor’s office were talking about the bill being passed within a month back in the middle of the summer, so I guess delays are turning out to be the norm for this one.

According to the Globe‘s Lisa Wangsness, DiMasi (who was at Patrick’s side when he introduced the initiative back in May, Wangsness points out) is pushing an alternative approach to boosting biotech in Massachusetts: “offering as much as $40 million in tax breaks and infrastructure investments to a half-dozen life science companies that are now deciding whether to expand in the state.” These incentives could be offered (Genzyme and Shire Pharmaceuticals are cited as potential recipients) without additional legislation, DiMasi told Wangsness, though he said he would continue to work on Patrick’s bill as well.

But the Patrick administration is apparently none too keen on the idea—in particular because it would substitute politicians’ judgment about which companies and projects deserve incentives for that of a panel of experts, as is outlined in the bill. “To maintain the integrity of this process, we need to have scientists making decisions about science,” Housing and Economic Development Secretary Daniel O’Connell told the Globe.

For more on the history of the bill and the growing tensions between DiMasi and the Patrick administration, see the Globe story here.

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