Schwarzenegger, Feinstein Urge Congressional Action on Stem Cell Research Legislation
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday at the University of California-Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine urged Congress to approve legislation that would encourage stem cell research and oppose a bill that would limit a stem cell research technique, which they said could affect research funded under Proposition 71, the Sacramento Bee reports (Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 8/24).
Feinstein and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have co-sponsored a bill (S 1520) that would ban reproductive cloning but allow the copying of individual stem cells for procedures used in embryonic stem cell research (Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/24).
A separate bill (S 658) by Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would ban reproductive cloning but also would ban the copying of stem cells, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. Under the bill, scientists who perform SCNT would face prison sentences and as much as $10 million in fines, and patients would not be able to legally receive treatments derived from the research, even in foreign countries.
Schwarzenegger and Feinstein said members of Congress should oppose the bill. The House has passed a companion bill to the Senate legislation (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/24).
Schwarzenegger and Feinstein also voiced support for a bill already approved by the House that would expand federally-funded embryonic stem cell research beyond the current limits. The bill has stalled in the Senate, and President Bush has said he would veto it (Sacramento Bee, 8/24).
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) joined Schwarzenegger and Feinstein (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 8/24). Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee Chair Robert Klein also attended (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/24).
Feinstein said, "[T]his research [under Proposition 71] is in danger. If some in Washington get their way, this research will be stopped in its tracks and scientists will face criminal sanctions. This cannot be allowed to happen" (Sacramento Bee, 8/24).
Schwarzenegger said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday to seek his cooperation. "I told him how important it is to me and others," Schwarzenegger said, adding, "Maybe he is not all the way there yet, but maybe he can be" (Los Angeles Times, 8/24).
Klein said the Brownback-Landrieu bill defines human cloning too broadly and would "reach into the future and say that we can't have this (research) in the country or developed in California ... And if you take your sick parent, or child or spouse someplace where they could benefit from this, under this bill they would be a criminal" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/24).
In related news, a California Council on Science and Technology panel on Tuesday said the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine should forego a provision of Proposition 71 that allows it to receive royalties from treatments developed through CIRM-funded research.
The committee concluded that taking a portion of eventual profits "might discourage private investors" from providing necessary supplemental funding, the Chronicle reports. CIRM has the authority to forego its right to royalties if it decides that would be an appropriate action (Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/24).
The report also said that promises in 2004 of large royalties "are based on unrealistic assumptions about the potential economic impact." However, the report said that CIRM would create jobs, encourage businesses to relocate to California and increase tax revenue.
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), who has sponsored legislation that would require the state to be reimbursed, said, "That was a promise made to voters, ... and that's a promise that must be kept to ensure voters confidence" (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 8/24).
In its Aug. 22 issue, Fortune magazine, examined the debate over Proposition 71, which "has stalled and landed in the courts" despite the "momentum" that surrounded the initiative during the 2004 campaign.
According to Fortune, Proposition 71 "backers must scramble to arrange alternative financing and fight the legal battles as they try to judge grant applications."
Many hope that Frist's "bold and risky stance in favor of expanding the research could indeed change the momentum of the debate," although "that doesn't mean the war is over" as the "forces of free-market capitalism" come "head to head with the forces of evangelical Christianity," according to Fortune (Morris, Fortune, 8/22).