Case Challenging Proposition 71 Begins
The court case of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 71 will begin on Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, the Oakland Tribune reports (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 2/26). Proposition 71, which 59% of California voters approved in 2004, will provide $300 million annually for 10 years to fund stem cell research (Elias, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 2/27).
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit -- including People's Advocate, the National Tax Limitation Foundation and the California Family Bioethics Council -- say the measure is illegal because it does not have sufficient accountability to the state. The case will "focus on the validity of the Proposition 71 election and claims that the ballot initiative violates federal and state bond laws," the Tribune reports.
Nicole Pagano -- a spokesperson for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which Proposition 71 created -- said that the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, CIRM's governing board, is accountable because elected officials appoint most ICOC members (Oakland Tribune, 2/26).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the case also will provide CIRM with "a forum to press its case that it has been and will be accountable to the public" (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 2/27).
The case is expected to last about two weeks, but an appeal is expected regardless of the outcome.
The lawsuits have prevented CIRM from issuing bonds to fund the program, and the agency has relied on donations to fund operations.
CIRM plans to issue this spring $50 million in bond anticipation notes, which would be repaid only if the agency wins the legal challenges.
Dana Cody, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation, said her group would seek an injunction to stop the issuance of the bond anticipation notes (Oakland Tribune, 2/26).
In related news, CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday included an interview with Hans Keirstead, a biologist who has used human embryonic stem cells to allow paralyzed laboratory rats to walk again. Keirstead is requesting FDA approval for a clinical trial, which would begin next year in collaboration with Geron, to transplant embryonic stem cells into U.S. residents with newly injured spinal cords.
The segment also considers funding for stem cell research, including Proposition 71.
The CBS segment includes comments from:
- Arnold Kriegstein, director of the program in developmental and stem cell biology at the University of California-San Francisco;
- Robert Robbins, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford University; and
- U.S. residents who hope that they or their family members will be treated by Keirstead in a clinical trial (Bradley, "60 Minutes," CBS, 2/26).
In addition, video of an interview with Tom Okarma, CEO of Geron, is available online in RealPlayer. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.