Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Endorses Bond Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday endorsed a nearly $3 billion bond measure to fund embryonic stem cell research that will appear on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, the Sacramento Bee reports. The Los Angeles chamber is the first major business organization to support the initiative, according to the Bee (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 6/19). The measure, which was drafted by Los Angeles-based advocacy group Californians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, would raise an average of $295 million annually to provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other institutions. Under the initiative, a 29-member citizens' oversight commission appointed by the governor and state legislators would distribute the funds, with priority given to stem cell research that is unlikely to qualify for federal funding. As much as 10% of funding could be allocated to the construction of research facilities for not-for-profit organizations. The bond measure's supporters hope to build 12 to 15 new stem cell research centers with the funds (California Healthline, 6/4).
The Los Angeles chamber's endorsement marks the beginning of an expected campaign by business groups for the stem cell initiative, the Los Angeles Times reports. The campaign is intended to "add an economic argument to a national debate over stem cell research that has been framed largely in moral and medical terms," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 6/19). At a press conference announcing the endorsement on Friday, George Kieffer, chair of the board of directors of the Los Angeles chamber, which represents more than 1,300 Southern California businesses, said that other business groups also should endorse the stem cell initiative, adding that it is "good for California business, good for the California economy, good for our research institutions and good for the public welfare in general" (Sacramento Bee, 6/19). Controller Steve Westly (D), who also endorsed the initiative at the news conference, said that the bond would generate a "tremendous return on investment." He also predicted a "huge, bipartisan statewide coalition" would support the measure, adding that he believed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) would "feel very good about" it. Schwarzenegger has yet to take a position on the initiative (Los Angeles Times, 6/19).
According to the Bee, abortion-rights opponents are "leading the charge" against the measure because they oppose research using human embryos. However, Carol Hogan, a spokesperson for the California Catholic Conference, said that the coalition plans to focus on the initiative's "bad public policy" rather than moral issues. Oncologist H. Rex Greene -- a member of Doctors, Patients and Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility, a coalition that opposes the initiative -- said he favors using adult stem cells in such research, the Bee reports. Greene, also the medical director of the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center, said, "I would like to address real health problems today -- not this pie in the sky, utterly exaggerated and manipulated propaganda that will not put a penny into the real promising areas of stem cell research." Greene said that it will take more than 20 years to develop new treatments using embryonic stem cells, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 6/19).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.