When Gov. Deval Patrick headed west for an international biotechnology conference in California that began Tuesday, he brought along plenty of help — including a new $1 billion plan to transform the Massachusetts economy.
Patrick signed the bill, a key piece of his economic agenda, into law hours before leaving town Monday. House lawmakers gave the 10-year plan final approval last Wednesday, and the Senate followed the next day.
House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Nobel Prize winner Craig Mello and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft joined the governor as he signed the landmark legislation at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Kraft has funded medical research, and Mello is a University of Massachusetts researcher who won the 2006 Nobel Prize for medicine.
The bill became law in the heart of the Longwood medical area, home to Harvard Medical School and cutting-edge medical facilities. The law also will help in developing five regional technology and innovation centers.
The ceremony commemorating the bill was notable for the exchange of affections between Patrick and DiMasi, who traded barbs earlier this year when the speaker killed the governor’s casino gambling bill.
“Sometimes in this business of ours, people keep score in purely political terms,” Patrick said. “And there’s no denying the fact that signing this bill today makes a clear and important political point: that the Legislature and the administration can work together on big and complex initiatives when we set our mind to it.”
In his remarks, DiMasi returned the compliment, saying: “Believe me, Governor Patrick deserves full credit for what he has done on this area, and it will be an unbelievable legacy for you, governor. I swear that this will be remembered and you will be remembered for all the good things that will come to this every single day after the signing of this bill.”
With the new law in hand, Patrick set out Monday for the 2008 BIO International Convention in San Diego. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray also planned to attend, as did at least five members of the House and Senate and more than three dozen representatives of local industries, state and local agencies and business groups.
The show of force has a single purpose — hanging an “open for biotech business” sign at the state’s border.
State Sen. Jack Hart, D-Boston, who helped shepherd the life sciences bill through the Senate, called passage of the legislation a “Sputnik moment” for the state, opening up a world of possibilities.
“This is more than just about jobs,” he said. “This is about the cures and the treatments that will be developed here in Massachusetts.”
An aide to Patrick praised lawmakers for passing the bill.
Kyle Sullivan, the governor’s press secretary, said the overwhelming support in both chambers “sends a clear and important message to the international life science community that Massachusetts is committed to being in the vanguard in this field.”
The approval in the Senate came the same day a private study said Massachusetts’ life sciences industry directly employs more than 77,000 people.(p2)