Leaders in the tech community testified at the state house Thursday in support of banning noncompete agreements—those contracts that some employers have workers sign agreeing to not work for a competitor immediately after they leave for fear of exposing trade secrets. 

It was the first public hearing since Governor Patrick last month unveiled an economic development proposal that included eliminating non-competes in Massachusetts. The room was packed with big tech community players, from start-up founders to venture capitalists, including Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, who says these contracts stifle innovation and keep wages down because employers know their workers can’t leave easily.

"We see this becoming a big issue," Sabet said. "Companies are basically enforcing these employees to sign non-compete agreements and their employees can’t leave even if they want to go start something that has nothing to do with their prior employer."

Some pro-business groups like the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce oppose the move. Advocates, however, cite California, one of the few states that has banned noncompete agreements. Entrepreneurs like Paul English, who co-founded travel search engine Kayak, said that move has helped bolster California’s booming tech economy.

"There’s a fabric of innovation that exists in California that doesn’t exist here," English said. "And a lot of it is if you put in to law things like non-competes where the programmer has to sort of bow down and ask permission can I do this, can I do that? You’re pretty much stamping out anything about innovation.

Governor Patrick’s bill would instead adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act,  which has been implemented in 48 other states to protect business intellectual property.

But employment lawyer Mike Rosen says banning non-competes in exchange for the Trade Secrets Act leaves employers with only one option if they want to pursue a case where they think a former worker is using their information at a competitor.

"What we see in CA where non-competes are not enforceable is many more of these trade secret theft cases, and trade secret theft cases are much larger and more expensive and more time-consuming and difficult to bring, and really are a blunt tool to protect the interests that a non-compete agreement would protect.

Another factor for lawmakers to consider as they mull over the governor’s bill.