Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dodging the Two-Thirds Bullet

You might call it the stem cell work-around. It is a way to fast track a tough stem cell oversight proposal onto the November ballot.

The tactic would avoid Sen. Deborah Ortiz' nasty problem of securing a two-thirds vote in both houses of the California legislature for her proposed constitutional amendment on the California stem cell agency.

That is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. Two-thirds approval means that members of both parties have to vote for a proposal. The requirement has been one of the main reasons for the yearly budget gridlock in Sacramento. While Ortiz' measure (SCA13) has bipartisan support, it is unclear whether that is sufficient to deliver all the votes she needs. Her task is even trickier given the timetable for placing a measure on the ballot. Normally the proposal would have to clear both houses by the end of June.

Now comes a little noticed comment in one legislative analysis of SCA13 from the Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee, which approved the measure earlier.

The analysis suggested that "the author and committee may wish to consider whether it would be more appropriate to, instead of asking the voters to place into the Constitution language aimed at providing more specificity to a statutory initiative, ask the voters to amend the initiative itself."

That would require a simple majority vote in both houses, the analysis said. But it would also require the governor's signature while a constitutional amendment does not.

There is no indication whether Ortiz is considering making such a change in her legislation.

Ortiz has scheduled a news conference call for noon Thursday (May 26). SCA13 comes up in the Senate Appropriations Committee later that afternoon. Ortiz also met with Robert Klein Wednesday to exchange views about the proposal, which the stem cell Oversight Committee unanimously opposed on Monday.

For the record, the committee analysis listed only one other formal opponent to the proposal, Stanford University. Caltech, USC and the California Healthcare Institute have expressed "concerns." In support are Californians Aware, Calpirg and California Common Cause. Sphere: Related Content

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