Ortiz To Pursue Some Changes To Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-San Francisco), who campaigned in favor of Proposition 71, said she will urge the Legislature, which convenes Monday, to correct elements in the initiative that "ought not to have been there," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6).
Proposition 71, a measure approved on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, calls for California to issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for lab projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 11/18).
Ortiz faulted Proposition 71 for not guaranteeing that funding that corporate and academic research programs will receive under the measure will benefit California residents and for allowing patent sharing agreements to be withheld from the public under Proposition 71's exemptions to the state public records act.
Ortiz seeks to enact provisions to guarantee that the state recoup the investment in stem cell research and money to pay interest on the bonds issued to finance the program. She also proposes changing the measure to require patent sharing agreements to be reviewed by the state auditor and to allow the public to evaluate "whether the state's interests are being protected," according to the Chronicle.
She said the power to negotiate for the state's share of patent rights should not be left to the chair and vice chair of the Independent Citizen's Oversight Committee, which was formed by Proposition 71 to create ethical and financial operating standards, as the measure currently dictates.
The oversight committee's standards are not required to conform to federal and state law, according to the measure. Language included in Proposition 71 also forbids the Legislature from amending its terms for three years. After three years, any changes must be approved by 70% of both chambers and the governor.
Ortiz said that such obstacles could limit efforts to modify Proposition 71, according to the Chronicle.
Authors of the initiative said that the various provisions Ortiz seeks to change are unnecessary.
Robert Klein, a Palo Alto real estate developer, said the oversight committee will enact policies that address critics' concerns. The National Academies' National Research Council on Monday and Tuesday will conduct a workshop on "the best working practices in the country," Klein said.
James Harrison, an attorney who co-authored Proposition 71, said releasing patent sharing agreements to the public prematurely could diminish their value and reduce the state's share of royalties and licensing agreements (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6).
Establishing a system for guiding stem cell research and distributing $300 million of taxpayers' money annually is a "daunting task," and "so much can go wrong," a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial states. The editorial says California must spend "so much public money in such a short period" at a time when the state faces "overwhelming budget deficits." However, there are "reasons for optimism," as the state's science community is becoming "excited about the prospects of moving the state into the forefront of stem cell research" and San Diego "is poised to eventually benefit" from successful research, the editorial states. The editorial concludes, "Supporters and critics will be watching at every step ... to make sure the best efforts are made" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/5).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.