Monday, June 07, 2010

Move to Allow Stem Cell Agency More Staff Advances in Legislature

The magic number now for CIRM in the California state legislature is 56.

That's the number of votes required in the 80-member state Assembly for passage of legislation that would remove the 50-person cap on the size of the staff at the $3 billion agency.

The bill, SB1064 by Sen. Elaine Kontominas Alquist, D-San Jose, cleared the Senate on a 33-0 vote on Thursday. The vote was pretty much a foregone conclusion, given that the bill has the support of Senate leadership. It now goes to the Assembly where it faces two committee hearings before reaching the floor. Approval is likely in the committees, but it is a bit trickier on the Assembly floor.

It only takes 15 lawmakers, either not voting or voting no on the measure, to block the bill. That's because Prop. 71, which created CIRM, enshrined in state law a requirement for a 70 percent vote to change the law concerning the stem cell agency. The rare and ill-considered super, super-majority provision gives a handful of persons extraordinary control over the fate of the bill. It would take only a couple of loopy lawmakers to reject the legislation, given the customary voting patterns in the Assembly.

CIRM dearly wants the employee cap removed. CIRM President Alan Trounson has warned that the quality of the agency's work will suffer without its removal. The limit was written into the 10,000-word initiative by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein.

Klein and 29-member CIRM board of directors have endorsed the Alquist bill, the first time they have given the nod to legislation that would affect the agency.

Here is a link to the analysis provided to lawmakers for the vote on the Senate floor.

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