Thursday, February 01, 2007

Legislators Target California Stem Cell Agency

The California stem cell agency may have believed its difficulties with the California legislature had vanished, but no such luck.

A bipartisan attempt is underway to change the composition of CIRM's Oversight Committee and dictate some terms of its intellectual property policies, among other things. The effort must be bipartisan because a colossal majority of 70 percent of both houses is required to pass a bill affecting CIRM. The governor's signature is required as well.

Reporter Malcom Maclachlan of the Capitol Weekly was the first to break the news about the latest effort to assert legislative influence over CIRM. He said Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, will author the legislation. Kuehl is the chair of the Senate Health Committee, replacing Deborah Ortiz, who stem cell Chairman Robert Klein once denounced as an "ongoing threat." Ortiz left the legislature because of term limits. Runner is a Republican leader in the Senate, serving as its GOP caucus chair.

Maclachlan wrote that legislation now being drafted would require that two "public interest" representatives be appointed to the 29-member CIRM Oversight Committee. That presumably would mean that two persons now on the board could lose their seats, since the measure does not provide for increasing the size of the committee.

The legislation also "would allow the ICOC to negotiate royalties of 2 percent to 5 percent on any treatments developed via grants to for-profit entities; there would be no cap on the royalties the state could receive."

Maclachan, who has produced a number of stories on the stem cell agency, continued:
"The bill would also force for-profit entities to offer these treatments to the state at the Medicaid prices, rather than the current requirement that they be offered in line with weaker standards under the California Prescription Drug Discount Program. Finally, it would widen the definitions of what state agencies would be eligible for the discounts. Current CIRM regulations limit this to the state discount drug program, while the legislation would open it to any state agency, including prisons and county indigent health-care programs."
Maclachan quoted Dale Carlson, spokesman for CIRM, as saying the agency would have no comment until it had an opportunity to review the bill.

Carlson also said:
"We have benefited greatly from the Legislature's advice and counsel in years past, and we look forward to a continuing cooperative partnership. We are interested in any and all ideas that can bring stem-cell treatments and therapies to fruition."
Winning passage of the legislation would be a remarkable achievement. No other legislation requires 70 percent approval – not even the state budget or tax increases. Negative votes from only 13 senators can kill the bill. But the measure will certainly provide a forum for lawmakers and others to make their voices heard at more length than the three minutes allowed for each public comment at CIRM meetings.

For more on the reasoning behind the legislation see the item below. Sphere: Related Content

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