Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Update on Last Week's Hoover and CFAOC Hearings on CIRM

Two California state entities involved with the state's $3 billion stem cell agency examined its progress last week, ranging from its biotech loan program to election of a new chair.

The bodies are the Little Hoover Commission, the state's good government agency, and the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee(CFAOC), the only state body specifically charged with the overseeing CIRM's finance.

The CFAOC, chaired by state Controller John Chiang, queried CIRM officials, who included co- Vice Chairman Art Torres, President Alan Trounson and outside counsel James Harrison. Topics included the agency's heavy reliance on outside contracts(particularly in connection with legal and communications activities), the biotech loan program and its returns to the state and conflicts of interest, particularly in connection with closer ties to industry, according to Ruth Holton-Hodson, deputy controller.

We expect to have more on the discussion when the CFAOC posts transcript from the meeting.

The Little Hoover Commission was updated on a new law that lifts the 50-person limit on CIRM staff. Originally the legislation would have implemented many of the commission's reform recommendations from 2009. However, CIRM was successful in eliminating most of those provisions from the bill, which was also a topic at the CFAOC meeting. The Hoover meeting included an update on the election of a new chair at CIRM, according to Stuart Drown, executive director of the commission. He said the commissioners asked the staff to continue to follow CIRM activities and report back on the chair election preparations.

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