Thursday, February 18, 2010

State Lawmaker Says CIRM 'Accountable to No One'

A leading California state senator said today that the state's $3 billion stem cell agency is “essentially accountable to no one” and declared that more accountability and transparency are needed.

Sen. Elaine Kontominas Alquist, D-San Jose and chair of the Senate Health Committee, made the statement in a news release touting her legislation to help ensure that Californians receive a “fair return” on their investment, which will total $6 billion with interest.

Alquist said,
“I was an early supporter of California’s groundbreaking stem cell initiative, and know that our public investment on behalf of the State of California will lead to new frontiers of treatment to heal people with chronic diseases.

“However, CIRM is essentially accountable to no one given the way the initiative was written. Californians entered into a partnership with CIRM when they approved Proposition 71 in 2004, a partnership that was meant to be mutually beneficial. By accepting public bond dollars, CIRM also accepted public accountability, public transparency, and a public return on their investment.”
She continued,
“If a cure or life-saving medicine is discovered using taxpayer dollars, we must be sure that all Californians benefit from that research. Californians are the shareholders of this venture. In this economic environment, the Legislature has a duty to ensure that every public dollar is accounted for and spent wisely."
The news release highlighted three key provisions of her bill, SB1064:
  • Ensuring Californians have affordable access to drugs developed by Prop 71 funds.
  • Ensuring intellectual property revenue made from Prop 71 funded grants and loans return to the state’s General Fund.
  • Requiring the Citizen’s Financial Accountability Oversight Committee and the Controller’s Office to conduct performance audits.
The bill would also lift the 50-person cap on CIRM staff, a change that the agency dearly desires. However, Alquist did not mention that proposal in the news release. (We should note that the cap is redundant because Prop. 71 also imposes a limit on administrative expenses.)

We asked CIRM on Wednesday for a response to the legislation, but nothing has been forthcoming. We will carry the agency's comments when we receive them.

For more details on the measure, see the “stem cell agency reform” item. Sphere: Related Content

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