Saturday, March 21, 2020

California's $5.5 Billion Stem Cell Initiative: Signature Gathering Suspended Due to Coronavirus

Backers of a $5.5 billion stem cell research initiative in California have suspended their efforts to gather signatures to place it on the November ballot, but are expressing confidence that the proposal will qualify.  

In response to questions from the California Stem Cell Report, the campaign said it had run afoul of statewide bans on public gatherings. Voter signatures on petitions to place the initiative on the ballot generally require small gatherings in public places. 

The proposal is intended to refinance the California stem cell agency, which has spent nearly all of the $3 billion it was provided by voters in 2004. It will begin to close its doors next fall unless more funding is provided. 

Sarah Melbostad, a spokeswoman for Californians for Stem Cell Research, released a statement that said, 
"In keeping with the governor’s statewide order for non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home, we’ve suspended all signature gathering for the time being."
The statement continued, 
"We’re proud of our team and proud of the promising and significant number of signatures we’ve gathered to date – demonstrating strong support amongst voters. We’re confident that we still have time to qualify and plan to proceed accordingly."
To qualify for the ballot, the valid signatures of 623,212 registered voters are needed. Large numbers of signatures are usually disqualified during the certification process. So tens of thousands of signatures or more beyond the minimum are invariably necessary. 

The campaign originally expected to have the signatures gathered by the end of April. The campaign did not respond to a question concerning the number of signatures that it has on hand now. 

The California Stem Cell Report understands that petition circulation companies throughout the state are calling in their signatures next week. At that point, reliable figures may be available. The halt to signature gathering affects other potential ballot measures this fall. 

Here is the full text of the campaign's statement:
"In keeping with the Governor’s statewide order for non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home, we’ve suspended all signature gathering for the time being.
"As the COVID-19 issue is updating daily, if not hourly, we at the campaign are monitoring the situation very closely and will comply with all statewide, regional and local ordinances.
"We’re proud of our team and proud of the promising and significant number of signatures we’ve gathered to date – demonstrating strong support amongst voters.
"We’re confident that we still have time to qualify and plan to proceed accordingly.
"When faced with this current situation, we’re reminded every day how important this initiative is to save and improve the lives of millions of Californians living with chronic diseases and conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease and more."
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