Friday, June 13, 2008

CIRM Directors To Take Crack at Budget and Stem Cell Legislation

Next week, the $3 billion California stem cell agency will air for the first time the proposed spending plan for its upcoming fiscal year, which begins only 11 days following the budget session.

A draft of the proposed budget has not yet been posted on the agency's website for next Thursday's meeting of the Finance Subcommittee of CIRM's directors. The panel has also scheduled an informational presentation on the proposed $500 million biotech loan program, including discussion of "portfolio policies" and use of consultants. Background information on that presentation is also not yet available.

In another meeting next week, the directors' Legislative Subcommittee is scheduled on Friday to consider state legislation aimed at ensuring affordable access to CIRM-financed therapies. That measure, SB1565 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and Sen. George Runner, R-Apple Valley, has passed the state Senate and is now before the Assembly Health Committee.

The bill would also require an outside study of CIRM to completed by about this time next year, with recommendations for changes in the agency's structure and procedures.

CIRM has not yet taken a position on the bill, but has opposed similar legislation in the past.

Also up for consideration by CIRM directors is other state legislation (AB2381) aimed at compelling CIRM to follow through on a Prop. 71 requirement to give preferential treatment to California businesses. The bill by Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, has passed the Assembly and is scheduled to be heard June 25 in the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Kuehl.

CIRM is moving on its own to deal with legislative concerns about failure to comply with Prop. 71, but CIRM's proposal seems to leave the door open to more competition from businesses from out-of-state than Mullin's measure.

Other legislation scheduled to be considered by CIRM directors is AB2663 by Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, and AB2296, another Mullin bill. The Dymally measure, now in the Assembly Health Committee, would provide for Medi-Cal coverage of stem cell clinical trial expenses, under certain conditions. Mullin's 2296, which passed the Assembly 76-0 and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeks to deter what its backers believe is an alarming increase in attacks on scientists who use animals in research. The measure is sponsored by the University of California.

CIRM has not posted any proposed positions or analysis of any of the measures. But you can find the latest legislative staff analysis on the bills on the following links: SB1565, AB2381, AB2663, AB2296.

The CIRM committee has also scheduled a "consideration of status" of federal stem cell legislation, including the stem cell bill vetoed by President Bush nearly a year ago.

The main meeting locations of both CIRM committees is San Francisco, but remote teleconference locations are available. For the legislative group, they include Sacramento, Irvine and Elk Grove. For the finance group, they include Pleasanton, Irvine, Berkeley and Carlsbad. The specific addresses can be found via the agenda links in the second and third paragraphs of this item.

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