Despite its hardships, California continues to be a leader in the life sciences sector, said governor Jerry Brown at CalBio in San Francisco on March 9. The state attracts more than half of all of the venture capital investment in the United States. “Patents are being awarded in California at four times the rate of the next state, which is New York,” he added.
Brown stressed that he was aware that the life sciences industry both creates wealth and “the future well being on which millions, if not billions, of people depend.” As the industry solves problems there are often unintended consequences, leading to new regulations. “And once you get those things, they are very hard to get rid of,” he said. “That’s why, whether you have a Republican or Democratic administration, the regulatory burden keeps increasing. And it keeps increasing because we find new problems, new fears, new concerns, new potential consequences.”
“The key is to keep stupid regulations and laws from coming into effect,” Brown explained. Once regulation is in place, getting rid of it or modifying requires “a force superior to what got it created in the first place,” he added. It is a power equation. “If you want to move that regulation aside, you have to move the supporters of that legislation aside.”
That is the reason that “we have more lobbyists than ever before,” he said. This is problematic because the lobbyists now greatly outnumber politicians, which makes the prospects of having an open public debate difficult. Political issues get distorted and complicated political issues get boiled down into slogans, he said.
Brown said that he wanted to see California to continue to be a pioneer in addressing its problems. “One of the things that I do enjoy about this third term is that I get to go back and see some of the problems that I created in my first term,” he said, adding that the following should be written down as ‘Brown’s Law:’ “Government can best solve those problems that it itself first created.”
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The state is seeing some progress in terms of its economy. “When I took over last year, the deficit was $26 billion. Now it is down $9 billion,” he said. “That may seem like a lot, but when you realize that the state domestic product is just under $2 trillion, it is kind of a rounding error,” he said. “But it doesn’t feel that way to the people you want to tax, or to the programs you want to cut, or the people whose jobs you want to eliminate.”
Supporting Joseph Schumpeter’s ideas concerning the creative destruction of capitalism, Brown cited the necessity to sometime destroy in order to create. “Now that sounds a little harsh and I’ll leave the private sector to do all of that.”
Brown closed his speech inviting the industry to come to him with concerns. “I already have one from our local biotech industry about some redundant regulations,” he said. “If I can find out a way to get rid of them, they’ll be gone.”
Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.