Ban on drug industry gifts could be lifted

By Jim O’Sullivan
State House News Service / June 25, 2010

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A two-year-old state ban on gifts in the medical and pharmaceutical industries would be repealed under an economic development bill that the House budget committee began polling its members on yesterday.

The ban, which prohibits drug firms from giving gifts and meals to health care professionals, has cut back on local business profits, a summary of the bill states. When it passed as part of a broader health care bill in 2008, supporters called it a way of curbing pharmaceutical companies’ influence.

Efforts to repeal the ban will probably draw opposition in the Legislature, where lawmakers had boasted of new overtures to transparency and accountability in trumpeting its passage two years ago.

The 86-page economic development bill, which is due to emerge from the Ways and Means Committee today, would merge the Health and Education Finance Authority and the Emerging Technology Fund under MassDevelopment, according to a summary obtained by State House News Service.

The bill would also grant targeted tax breaks to businesses and establish a central marketing agency. But it differs from Senate-approved legislation on how to restructure the state’s economic development bureaucracy.

Individual investors in start-ups based in this state would pay a 3 percent capital gains tax on the investments if they hold them longer than three years.

A new housing development program would offer incentives for rehabilitating units in multiple-unit buildings, including a tax credit of up to 25 percent on qualified expenses. The bill would reauthorize $50 million in bond funds for designated growth districts.

The business development options emerged from lawmakers’ hopes to help employers create new jobs, said state Representative Brian Dempsey, House chairman of the Economic Development Committee.

Action on the economic development bill comes with just five weeks of formal sessions remaining. Lawmakers are trying to finish a host of bills before July 31.

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