Friday, September 26, 2008

California Efficiency Panel To Scrutinize CIRM

California's Little Hoover Commission has decided to examine the state's $3 billion stem cell research effort.

Stuart Drown
, executive director of the group, said the first hearings will be held Nov. 20 with another likely Jan. 22. In response to a query from the California Stem Cell Report, Drown said,
"The commission has been asked to look at governance and transparency, but may look at other issues as well, including a discussion on ways to insure the most effective use of bond money. The commission currently is involved in a study of bond oversight. In setting up the study of the state's stem cell research activities, the commission has directed staff to ensure the study adds value to the current discussion through constructive recommendations and avoids merely repeating work done by others."
CIRM is funded through California state bonds at a total cost to the state of $6 billion. Funds are routed directly to CIRM, bypassing both the governor and the legislature.

The impetus for the study came from legislation by Sens. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, requesting the inquiry. The primary focus of the bill, however, is affordability of stem cell therapies funded by CIRM. The Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan group, is charged by law with promoting "efficiency, economy and improved service" in California state government.

Writing on his organization's blog, John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said,
"Some stem cell research advocates have lobbied hard against the (Kuehl) bill, partly because they objected to a Little Hoover Commission study.

"I don't get it.  We are talking about $6 billion in public money. What could be more important than ensuring it's spent fairly and so that all Californians benefit from the research they're paying for?

"You'd think anybody who wants that would welcome an outside independent look and suggestions on how to make things work better.  The good news is no matter what Gov. Schwarzenegger does with SB1565,  the Little Hoover Commission has decided CIRM is worth a study."
SB1565 is now on the governor's desk.

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