ICOC Votes To Accept $5M Donation; Discusses Proposed Amendment to State Constitution
The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee on Monday during a meeting in Sacramento voted to accept a $5 million donation from Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories, and his wife, Dagmar, the Sacramento Bee reports (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 6/7).
Prior to Dolby's contribution, CIRM was expected to run out of money in November. CIRM has been funding operations with a $3 million state loan.
ICOC Chair Robert Klein said the money will be used to hire legal, scientific and intellectual-property staff needed to begin issuing the first grants (California Healthline, 6/6). The Dolbys stipulated that the donation not be used for legislative issues, according to the Contra Costa Times (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 6/7).
At the meeting, Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) said she would consider abandoning a proposed constitutional amendment (SCA 13) to alter Proposition 71 if she and ICOC members could reach an agreement on providing new treatments to low-income California residents (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/7).
Ortiz's proposal initially included more stringent conflict-of-interest rules and open-meeting standards. Ortiz on Monday said that her concerns on those issues have been resolved and that she is open to working with ICOC members on other issues (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 6/7).
Ortiz said she wanted ICOC to change its open meeting, conflict-of-interest and access-to-care rules. Ortiz had previously said the changes needed to be put into state law, so that ICOC could not alter them.
Ortiz told ICOC members that she had ended her effort to dictate how royalties should be directed from research because her plan could have jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the bonds. Instead, she said she was seeking assurance that treatments resulting from CIRM grants would be "affordable and accessible to California residents" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/7).
SCA 13 is "stuck" on the Senate floor, where Ortiz hopes a vote will be allowed on Thursday, the Bee reports.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) has not decided whether he will allow a vote on the measure, Alicia Dlugosh, his spokesperson, said.
The Senate's 15 Republicans support the amendment, and the Democrats "are divided," according to the Bee (Sacramento Bee, 6/7).
Klein said Ortiz's suggestion that she might drop her amendment was "a very constructive proposal" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/7). However, Klein and other ICOC members said they will continue to urge lawmakers to oppose the amendment to the state constitution (Los Angeles Times, 6/7).
ICOC staff recommended that the committee consider giving preference to grant applicants who agree to lower prices for low-income California residents on treatments developed using CIRM funds (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/7). ICOC also created a task force to work with state legislators (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/7).
David Baltimore, an ICOC member and president of the California Institute of Technology, said, " You are trying to burden this bill with a huge social problem in America, which is the disparity between the health care available to the poor and the health care available to the rich" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/7). Baltimore added, "It is clear that so much of what is in (SCA 13) would discourage the people on this board. It would discourage the research scientists in this state. It would discourage the opportunity for us to move forward in the way we want to" (Sacramento Bee, 6/7).
David Kessler, an ICOC member and dean of the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, said to Ortiz, "I share all your values" regarding drug affordability. Kessler added, "How you do this, I think, is exceptionally, exceptionally hard" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/7).
In related news, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) confirmed that former first lady Nancy Reagan telephoned him and "several" other Republican California legislators, urging them to support HR 810. The bill, passed by the House last month, would loosen federal funding for stem cell research.
Reagan's phone calls "may explain why so many California Republicans backed the bill," The Hill reports. Nine of the 20 California Republicans voted for the bill, compared with one in five members of the overall GOP caucus.
Stem cell activists said a "changed climate" in California following the passage of Proposition 71 and a growing biotechnology sector also contributed to support for the bill from California Republicans (Savodnik, The Hill, 6/7).