Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Hoover Commission Opens CIRM Probe Next Week

California's Little Hoover Commission will kick off its inquiry next week into the state's $3 billion stem cell agency with testimony from both its chairman, Robert Klein, and longtime outside observers of the unique experiment.

President Alan Trounson is also scheduled to appear at the Nov. 20 hearing in the Capitol in Sacramento, following testimony by six other persons about what has become the world's largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

The commission is a bipartisan and respected California state organization that analyzes state government programs ranging from juvenile justice to California state bonding practices and makes recommendations for changes, if warranted.

The impetus for the commission's probe came earlier this year from legislation by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, who heads the state Senate Health Committee. The inquiry will deal with issues of governance, transparency, accountability and the use of state bond funds, according to Stuart Drown, executive director of the commission.

In addition to Klein and Trounson, the commission will hear from John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., a longtime participant in and observer of CIRM affairs. Jesse Reynolds, director of the Project on Biotechnology in the Public Interest at the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, Ca., is on tap as well. He was on the scene during the Prop. 71 campaign and later.

Ken Taymor, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy at the UC Berkeley School of Law, and Michael Klausner, a Stanford Law professor with expertise in governance, are scheduled to appear as well. Taymor has also been on the scene at numerous CIRM meetings.

The other two witnesses are Susan Bryant, a member of the CIRM board of directors and vice chancellor for research at UC Irvine, and Ralph O'Rear, vice president for facilities and planning at the Buck Institute in Novato, Ca. UC Irvine has received $51 million in CIRM grants. Buck has received $25 million.

The commission has scheduled another public hearing for late January, but Drown says that meeting and next week's session are not necessarily the only public events. In response to questions, he said the commission "tries to create opportunities for many voices."  Options include "advisory group meetings, site visits, focused discussions with experts – all of which would be open to the public," he said. 

Drown continued,
"The commission welcomes written testimony from the public and provides a chance to speak at the end of the public hearing.  Those opportunities should not be discounted, as they have, in some cases, been starting points of discussions with staff."
CIRM has been wary of the commission's study, contending that it has been the subject of more than enough scrutiny.

But Drown reported,
"We’ve had positive interactions with CIRM staff.  They’ve been very helpful in providing documents and we’ve agreed on a process to how to best communicate with them, using Don Gibbons (CIRM's chief communications officer) as a point person, who then either responds or directs us to someone else.  Initially, there was some uncertainty on their part about what we were after and hoped to achieve, and we sensed they were trying to fit us into the frame of what they’d already experienced.  A group came up for a chat a couple of weeks ago and we walked through our process and gave them a sense of what our reports attempt to achieve.  We explained that this isn’t an audit, but a study and an analysis."
Drown also said that Klein and Trounson are last on the Nov. 20 agenda so that they have a chance to respond to earlier comments.

The hearing may be televised live on the Internet via the CalChannel. Its schedule can be found here. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment