Bioscience funding bill endangered by disagreement on unrelated issues.
Oh so close, and yet, in the end, a stalemate once again. A special session of the Missouri General Assembly called by Gov. Jay Nixon to push forward an economic development agenda looks to be a bust as the House and Senate can’t reach agreement.
The special session showed particular promise for a long-sought initiative that would provide additional financial support to young bioscience companies in the state. Supporters of the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA) say the measure would bolster the bioscience industry and create new companies and jobs.
“MOSIRA will create a stable, ongoing source of funding to foster investment and job growth in high-tech and scientific research companies,” Nixon has previously said.
MOSIRA would create a funding source to spark growth in research and technology enterprises by capturing a small percentage of the growth in state revenue over a base year from a designated group of Missouri science and innovation companies.
The funding mechanism is similar to one used across the state line to support the bioscience industry in Kansas through the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The KBA returns $9.41 to the state economy for each dollar invested. A number of small bioscience companies in Kansas City have received investments through KBA.
“MOSIRA and Missouri Technology Corporation, coupled with the important activities of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, hold huge promise to accelerate the collective position of the Kansas City marketplace, both states of Missouri and Kansas, and propel our larger region into a global bioscience force that will benefit our economies for the future,” said Kelly Gillespie, executive director of the Missouri Bioscience Association and a key proponent of MOSIRA.
Though MOSIRA has bipartisan support, proponents have fought for two years to win passage of the initiative. At times derailed by opposition to stem cell research and at other times hijacked as leverage for unrelated agendas, MOSIRA looked to finally become law after it was approved by both chambers (30-4 in the Senate, 94-48 in the House) earlier in the special session and sent to Gov. Nixon on Sept. 23 for his signature.
MOSIRA may once again be kicked to the curb, however, because of a last-minute provision inserted that states it can only be enacted if a larger economic development initiative is passed during the special session. That economic development package, which includes incentives for creating an international air cargo hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and provisions to keep Missouri companies from jumping the state line, is at a stalemate, as the two chambers can’t reconcile differing versions of the legislation and the Senate has reportedly ended negotiations.
Much of the disagreement centers on sunset provisions for two tax credit bills targeted at historic preservation and low-income housing. The Senate version calls for those tax credits to expire, while the House opposes inclusion of expiration dates.
The fact that the disagreement has nothing to do with bioscience doesn’t help the prospects of MOSIRA. However, there is still a chance the initiative could become law with Gov. Nixon’s signature. MOSIRA supporters are arguing that the contingency clause included in the bill was passed is unconstitutional. And, failing that, there’s always next year, as the General Assembly convenes in just a few months for its regular session.
With bipartisan support in the General Assembly and strong advocates in the bioscience and business communities, the fight for MOSIRA will continue.
“We have evidence that legislators overwhelming supported this long-sought policy change, and we are resolved to work through all implementation hurdles, in order to get this stood up and working,” Kelly said. “Missouri has a vast amount of research, and a deep bench of innovative technologies primed to be commercialized that could quickly become substantial employers and job creators for our state.
It has been a long legislative battle, but the growing acceptance and awareness by Missouri elected officials, is breaking our way.”