Diversifying Michigan for Trial Lawyers

Even when Gov. Jennifer Granholm picks winners and losers, the winners get knifed in the back.

In her State of the State address Wednesday night, the governor divined six business sectors she says will "transition us to a new economy that's only beginning to emerge." One of those sectors is biotech, which the governor has targeted with state subsidies that, she says, will give Michigan a "competitive advantage" by "diversifying our economy." And she crowed about "33 new life sciences companies" in Kalamazoo created with state assistance.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

But what the governor didn't tell her audience is that her budget draws a big fat target on these very pharmaceutical firms by repealing state immunity for drug companies whose products have already been approved by the FDA.

The 1996 drug law was written precisely to help diversify Michigan's economy. That's right - the current administration wasn't the first to understand that autos may not drive Michigan forever. So the FDA pre-emption law was intended to give Michigan a comparative advantage and attract biotech jobs.

"One of the things we foresaw at the time was the need to diversify Michigan's economy," Dick Posthumus, Senate majority leader when the law passed, told Michigan Forward magazine in 2006. "We saw coming what eventually happened, that is the globalization of the auto industry. What we wanted to do was encourage the expansion of the life sciences industry (and to) ensure that a pharmaceutical company working on a life-saving drug wouldn't have to worry about frivolous lawsuits."

The legislation worked. Biotech companies have since invested $355 million and created 12,000 jobs in Michigan with an average yearly wage of more than $60,000. This is precisely the kind of economic diversification Granholm claims she supports - yet she has thrown it overboard to Democrat-friendly trial lawyers.

Apparently the idea is economic diversification for lawyers.