Topeka The Kansas House overwhelmingly approved a measure Thursday that supporters said would put Kansas on the cutting edge of bioscience research and create thousands of new jobs.
The Bioscience Initiative Act was sent to the Senate on a 119-6 vote.
Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, chief sponsor of the bill, said it would develop new research facilities, create 20,000 jobs and bring leading scholars to the area.
"Furthermore, it transfers their findings from the laboratory to commercial use that will provide higher-quality food, prescription drugs and other products that benefit our lives," Wilk said.
Under the bill, the state would divert about $500 million over 12 years in taxes from bioscience companies back into developing the industry.
"The whole intent here is to create jobs in Kansas," he said.
During debate, Wilk fought off an attempt by Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, that would have required that 75 percent of the construction jobs to build bioscience facilities be filled by Kansas residents.
"Let's show you love Kansans and you love working Kansans," Winn said.
But Wilk and Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, said Winn's proposal would require the state to "micromanage" hiring for construction, and that Kansas workers might not have the expertise to build some of the high-tech facilities.
Winn said Wilk was saying "Kansans are not smart enough to build." She added, "The rhetoric of jobs is in this bill, but the muster behind the rhetoric is not in the bill."
Winn's amendment failed.
The bill would establish a new 11-member biosciences authority that would work with state universities to recruit top scholars and develop research. The board also could issue bonds to build research facilities.
"It shows that the Legislature is serious about economic growth in Kansas," said House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka.
"This initiative will likely result over the next 10 years in an estimated 40,000 jobs along the I-70 corridor between Douglas County, Johnson County and Wyandotte County," Mays said during an online chat Thursday afternoon with www.ljworld.com.
The measure also includes a provision that places fetal tissue research in line with federal guidelines, Wilk said. He said some anti-abortion advocates believed that restriction should be stronger, while some scientists had indicated it was too restrictive.