The measure, SB 1064 by Sen. Elaine Kontaminas Alquist, D-San Jose, is now on its way to the governor's desk where it is expected to be signed. The bill would go into effect at the beginning of the year.
The limit on the number of employees was written into law by the ballot initiative, Prop. 71, that created the $3 billion research effort. The cap was redundant since the agency has a legal limit on operational expenses. The restriction ultimately hampered the agency's ability to perform its work.
In addition to removing the staffing cap, the compromise bill would require performance audits, albeit limited, of CIRM beginning next year at the agency's expense, according to the latest state Senate analysis of the measure. It also allows the agency to pay the patient advocates who serve on its board up to $15,000 a year. The CIRM board has already acted to do so.
CIRM backed the bill after it was significantly watered down. Gone are many reforms recommended by the Little Hoover Commission, the state's good government agency, along with provisions sought by the state's top fiscal officer, Controller John Chiang.
They include elimination of a performance audit by a special, Prop. 71-created, financial oversight committee chaired by Chiang. Instead CIRM itself would pay ($400,000 plus) for the audit and control its scope. CIRM already has written into the bill a stipulation that the audit does not have to include “a review of scientific performance.”
The staff analysis of the bill that was presented yesterday when it cleared the Senate floor on a 35-0 vote said,
“The author's office states that, while stem cell research is an important and laudable goal, concerns about transparency, accountability and oversight raised by the public, the independent Citizen's Financial Accountability Oversight Committee, the Little Hoover Commission, and the state controller detract from CIRM's ability to provide grants and loans in the most efficient way.According to the analysis, the CIRM performance audits would cover “programs, functions, operations, management systems, and policies and procedures to assess whether it is achieving economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the employment of available resources.”
“These concerns divert resources and attention from CIRM's ability to maximize voter's investment in stem cell sciences. In 2009 alone, CIRM spent $1.5 million in external contracts for legal services, lobbying, public relations and communications costs to improve its public image, which is a duplication of existing internal resources. Given that the debt from the bonds is serviced from the (state's) general fund, concern about CIRM's lack of transparency and accountability gains greater significance during these challenging fiscal times. By addressing many of these public concerns, this bill enhances CIRM's ability to make grants and loans, and the removal of such barriers frees up resources that were previously diverted from the grant and loan programs.”
The analysis also said it would be at least 10 years before CIRM is likely to generate revenue for the state through the results of the research it finances. The analysis said,
“Due to the time it takes research to be done and a product to be commercialized, the general fund is unlikely to see significant revenue until about 2020. The amount of revenues is unknown and depends on the number and types of drugs and technologies that are commercialized as well as their commercial success.”Sphere: Related Content