Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research, Referendum on Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law Could Have Implications Nationwide
USA Today on Thursday examined how the outcome of two health-related measures on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot likely will "reverberate in other states and Congress" and "tilt the dynamics of two of the [United States'] most contentious issues" (Ritter, USA Today, 10/28).
Proposition 72 allows California residents to vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal SB 2, a state law that will require some employers to provide health insurance to employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage.
SB 2, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, will require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the state fund. Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance to workers by 2007.
Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage (California Healthline, 10/27).
If upheld, SB 2 would "buoy advocates of health care restructuring stymied by well-financed foes and congressional action," according to USA Today.
USA Today reports that Proposition 71, which would provide funds for embryonic stem cell research, is seen by national supporters of such research "as a way to get around the Bush administration's ban on spending federal dollars for nearly all stem cell research" (USA Today, 10/28).
Proposition 71 would issue state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote human stem cell research and 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 colleges. State analysts say the measure could cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 10/28).
M. Dane Waters, chair of the not-for-profit Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, said, "California has always been the litmus test for organizations wishing to set a national trend. If these measures pass, I think you'll definitely see clones" by the 2006 elections. Waters added, "Health care reform hasn't been addressed to the people's liking by legislatures or Congress. There's no doubt that victory in California will cause other states to take up the banner" (USA Today, 10/28).
In related news, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Wednesday at an appearance in a Chili's restaurant recommended that state residents vote "no" on Proposition 72, the Los Angeles Times reports (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 10/28). Schwarzenegger said SB 2 would create a state-run health care program that would be "a big mess'' (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28).
In an interview earlier that day, Schwarzenegger also "criticized" the Bush administration's position on funding for stem cell research, according to the Times. Schwarzenegger, who has endorsed Proposition 71, said in a radio interview that it is "very important that we move forward with that research, I think, because on the national level we don't see much action" (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 10/28).
Additional information on propositions 71 and 72 is available online.