Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SB1565: CIRM Hopes Now Rest with Arnold

The California stem cell agency will be looking to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to gallop to its rescue and veto legislation aimed at ensuring affordable access to state-financed stem cell therapies.

The bill cleared the Assembly on Monday, 64-7, and now is only one step away from hitting the governor's desk. It will only take Senate concurrence in Assembly amendments to send the measure, SB1565 by Sens. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, to the governor.

So far the governor has not taken a position on the legislation, although he has been a friend indeed to the stem cell research program. A couple of years ago when CIRM was in financial straits, he loaned it $150 million, which has since been repaid with the state bond funds that finance CIRM's efforts. On more than one occasion, he has cited CIRM as evidence of doing good, both economically and scientifically.

CIRM and industry groups object to Kuehl's bill because it would lock into state law requirements that the agency contends would hamstring it in connection with negotiations with biotech companies. CIRM also objects to a provision that would lower a barrier to the funding of non-embryonic stem cell research.

Reporter Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times wrote about the provision last month, noting that it was inserted at the request of the conservative Runner, who opposes to human embryonic stem cell research.

Leuty quoted Jeff Sheehy, a member of the CIRM board of directors, as saying,
"We may be handing a political victory to people opposed to human embryonic stem cell research that hasn’t been earned and that isn’t supported by the science."
The issue, however, is of little notice in the Capitol, where lawmakers and the governor are embroiled in a nearly two-month stalemate that has become the California budget crisis. The governor has ordered the layoff of 10,000 state employees and seeks to cut the pay of 200,000 state employees to the federal minimum hourly wage of $6.55 until a budget is passed. The spending measure is being blocked by Republicans, who can do so because it requires a two-thirds vote.

One could speculate that the CIRM legislation could get caught in that battle. Schwarzenegger needs some Republican votes for a budget. Perhaps he could generate a couple by signing the legislation, arguing that he is acting to support stem cell research that does not destroy human life.

The possibility may be remote but stranger things have been done under the dome. And lawmakers and the governor are desperate to find a solution to the budget crisis. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Alice Wexler8:40 PM

    It is important to note that not only CIRM and industry groups but also some patient advocacy groups that worked hard on behalf Prop. 71oppose SB 1565.