Maryland businesses may soon find themselves fielding solicitations from an unusual pair: Gov. William Donald Schaefer and a Baltimore lawmaker perhaps best known for his criticisms of the governor.
Responding to a dare from Schaefer, state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-City, promised yesterday to try to win private backing for a facility to assist pharmaceutical manufacturers.
"I'll do it. I really will," Lapides said after a joint hearing in Baltimore during which House and Senate subcommittees voted release the initial installment of $23 million in planned development money for the Maryland Bioprocessing Center.
The center is designed to help fledgling drug manufacturers figure out ways to mass-produce their discoveries in sufficient quantities to undergo the federal approval process.
Lapides cast the sole dissenting vote at the end of the hearing.
The senator later explained his vote. "It's not because I don't support the project," he said, "but because I don't think we've tried hard enough" to get private funding.
If private money was involved, the operation would run more efficiently, Lapides said.
At the hearing, Schaefer, often at odds with the Bolton Hill lawmaker, said he has tried to get private money for this and other projects but has been unsuccessful.
"It's easy to say why don't you get private-sector money," Schaefer said. Then he asked Lapides, "Why don't you try it?"
When Lapides promised to do so, Schaefer said, "I want to be there when you do it. Not to make the pitch, though. I want you to do that."
"All right. I'll pitch and you catch," Lapides said.
Yesterday's vote also eliminated another obstacle in developing the center.
During hearings on the matter in the 1991 General Assembly this spring, lawmakers were told the center would have to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards in order for drugs to be tested there.
However, several lawmakers have since learned that the FDA does not approve or disapprove such facilities.
"The use of the word FDA-approved was misleading. We want to support it but not if it's been misrepresented," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-City, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on health and the environment.
The House subcommittee and the Senate subcommittee on capital construction delayed a vote two weeks ago and asked for an explanation from the state.
Officials at the Maryland Department of Employment and
Economic Development explained that the facility has to be built FDA standards if the FDA is to approve drugs developed there. The officials said they would involve FDA officials in the design of the center.