Sunday, May 04, 2008

California Supplier? A Minor Question Involving Stem Cell Millions

California lawmakers are barreling ahead with an effort to tell the state's stem cell agency how to define "California supplier," a move aimed at assisting the Golden State's biotech industry.

The legislation would ensure that California firms that make research tools and life science supplies receive a preference over out-of-state businesses in connection with CIRM-funded research. The potential benefit could run to tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions.

The measure – AB 2381 -- by Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, unanimously cleared the Assembly last week (May 1) on a 70-0 vote and is now in the Senate, where its prospects appear good.

At the same time, CIRM directors are scheduled to consider their own action on California suppliers during their meeting Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the agency has not yet posted proposed definitions of the term on its web site.

The topic came before CIRM directors (the Oversight Committee or ICOC) last March. Two lawmakers made an unusual appearance before CIRM directors, urging them to move quickly on the matter.

Attorney John Valencia of Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney of Sacramento, representing the stem cell firm Invitrogen, also reminded directors that the issue has been lingering for more than year. In January of this year, Valencia wrote a letter to the agency that led to the matter being placed before directors.

The issue centers on language in Prop. 71 that says:
"The ICOC (CIRM's board of directors) shall establish standards to ensure that grantees purchase goods and services from California suppliers to the extent reasonably possible, in a good faith effort to achieve a goal of more than 50 percent of such purchases from California suppliers."
However, the term California suppliers is not defined.

Mullin's bill, which is backed by at least one biotech industry group, would define supplier in this manner:
"any sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation, or other business entity, the owners or policymaking officers of which are domiciled in California and whose permanent, principal office or place of business from which the supplier's trade is directed or managed is located in California."
CIRM directors appeared to make it clear at their March meeting that they wanted to move forward separately on defining California supplier. But Mullin's bill holds their feet to the fire.

If his bill passes and is signed by the governor, it would be the first legislation enacted that would affect CIRM, which enjoys special protection from legislative or gubernatorial tinkering. Prop. 71 requires a unique and unprecedented super, super-majority vote of both houses (70 percent) to enact an law dealing with the stem cell agency.

Presumably CIRM would go some extremes to prevent passage of the bill and avoid a precedent that would make it easier to pass more sweeping legislation involving the agency. Sphere: Related Content

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