Governor Deval Patrick today signed an economic development bill supported by employers, but also filed a last-ditch bill to add restrictions on non-compete agreements.
The governor’s bill, which would prohibit employers from using non-compete agreements with hourly employees and limit the length of those agreements to six months, has virtually no chance of passage this year. Beacon Hill lawmakers previously declined to include any non-compete restrictions in the original economic development measure and are unlikely to do so now that informal legislative sessions mean that a single legislator may stop passage of a bill.
The economic development law signed by the governor would expand the research-and-development tax credit and create multiple initiatives to accelerate job growth. Governor Patrick vetoed sections creating an angel investor tax credit and a "live theater tax credit" designed to encourage more productions of pre-Broadway and pre-Off Broadway theater in Massachusetts
“We commend Governor Patrick for signing the economic development bill, but remain puzzled with the effort to push non-compete restrictions opposed by large segments of the business community. Legal protection for intellectual property is a priority for small and large firms alike, and the governor’s proposal on non-competes cuts right at the heart of what drives our national and global competitiveness,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
“The Legislature had good reason to leave non-compete restrictions out of the economic development bill and they have good reason not to pass this new bill.”
The Legislature’s decision to maintain the current non-compete law came after hundreds of AIM member employers contacted members of the Legislature to underscore the importance of protecting the innovations that drive the Massachusetts economy. AIM members from every sector of the economy, from technology to manufacturing, expressed overwhelming support for keeping the law as is.
The Patrick administration and a coalition of venture capitalists have sought for more than a year to ban non-competes altogether, arguing that they inhibit the growth of new companies in the innovation economy.
The research-and-development tax provision in the economic development bill creates an Alternative Simplified Credit (ASC) as an alternative to the traditional tax credit. ASC allows employers the option to claim a credit equal to 10 percent of any research expenses that exceed a base amount calculated over a period of three years.
Current law allows credits only for incremental R&D spending over a set base period in the 1980s.
AIM believes the changes are necessary to reverse a troubling 19.3 percent decline in R&D spending among Massachusetts employers between 2007 and 2011. The vast majority of research and development in Massachusetts takes place not in urban innovation districts, but in advanced manufacturing, medical device, defense and biopharma companies salted throughout the commonwealth.
“The updated R&D credit represents a substantive step toward stimulating the kind of innovation that drives economic growth in Massachusetts,” MacDougall said.