Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Perils of Prop. 71: CIRM's Search for a Vote

Crafty. Ingenious. Resourceful. And dubious.

All of which describe the events Tuesday night at the meeting of the directors of the California stem cell agency.

As John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., put it, the board "essentially drafted a member from the audience" in order to achieve a quorum and to be able to act officially.

Simpson, a regular and longtime observer of CIRM, wrote on his organization's blog,
"Assembling a quorum for the 29-member ICOC is never easy. It's comprised largely of high-powered academic and industry representatives. Moreover, Prop. 71 requires a super-majority. A quorum is 19 members."
Tuesday night, board officials had expected the necessary number but for a variety of reasons, the panel was short.

Simpson continued,
"Then as the board broke for dinner, Jacob E. Levin, Director of Research Development at UC Irvine, who was in the audience, asked Board Executive Director Melissa King what was necessary to serve as an alternate member.

"His boss, board member Dr. Susan Bryant, was one of those who was unable to attend. Under the ICOC's rules, board members from universities and research institutions may appoint alternates if they can't make it. The designate must be an executive of the university or institution.

"The lawyers determined Levin met the requirements, staff caught up with Dr. Bryant by phone, who agreed Levin could be her designate and after dinner the board got down to business. Chairman Bob Klein noted that Levin had been present for all the agenda items that had been discussed."
In years of covering hundreds, perhaps thousands, of California governmental hearings, I have never seen anything quite like this. State lawmakers have occasionally been locked in their legislative chambers until their leadership gets a desired vote. Some lawmakers have been dragooned from their homes to come in for a vote. But nothing quite like the CIRM maneuver on Tuesday.

It is one more example of the pitfalls of Prop. 71 and the perils of writing laws by initiative. The board of directors of CIRM is too large to run efficiently and the quorum requirements too high. Other problems exist as well, including a dual executive situation and built-in conflicts of interest. All of which are virtually impossible to change. That's because Prop. 71 altered the California State Constitution to require a 70 percent vote of the Legislature and the signature of the governor to amend the measure. The super, super-majority vote requirement is unprecedented and unique. It makes CIRM nearly immune from tinkering by lawmakers. But it also prevents changes that would enhance CIRM's mission and fix problems that arise when laws are put together in private by special interests. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment