Sens. Ortiz, Runner Introduce Constitutional Amendment for Stem Cell Initiative
Sens. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) and George Runner (R-Lancaster) on Wednesday proposed a constitutional amendment that would alter the governing regulations for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
The amendment would tighten CIRM's conflict-of-interest policies, require that any medicine developed using CIRM funds be offered to California residents at an affordable price and ensure that pharmaceutical companies selling CIRM-developed products give the state a portion of their revenue (Elias, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17).
The amendment also would require CIRM, its board and its working groups to hold all meetings in accordance with the state's open meeting laws.
A two-thirds approval in both houses of the Legislature is necessary for the amendment to be placed on state ballots, where it would need majority approval to become law (Hamilton, Wall Street Journal, 3/17).
A constitutional amendment is necessary to regulate CIRM because Proposition 71 prohibits the Legislature from amending the initiative for three years, Ortiz and Runner said. The senators "insist[ed] they have widespread support in the Legislature" for the proposal, the AP/Mercury News reports (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17).
"This is not about refighting Proposition 71," Runner, who opposed the ballot measure that created CIRM, said. He said, adding that the "bright picture painted" of the stem cell institute during the campaign differed from the institute's "cloudy" details.
Ortiz, who supported Proposition 71 and has long advocated for stem cell research, said the amendment is needed "to maintain the public's confidence, the integrity of this important research and California's significant financial investment" (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 3/17).
"These measures will uphold our promise to the public that Proposition 71 is implemented in an open, thoughtful and deliberative manner," Ortiz added (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/17).
Ortiz said that "there are some reasonable exceptions" to openness rules, including the vetting of individual grant applications. But she added that "those exceptions ought not become the general rule."
Robert Klein and Ed Penhoet -- chair and vice chair of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which oversees the development of CIRM -- in a joint statement issued on Wednesday said that Proposition 71 contains "sufficient governance, oversight and accountability mechanisms to address the very same issues Ortiz and Runner discussed" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17).
Klein and Penhoet noted that ICOC has "held 13 open public meetings in just 13 weeks," adding that ICOC is "committed to adopting stringent conflict-of-interest policies and medical and ethical standards -- with input from the public." They added they welcome legislators' "participation in this ongoing process."
Ortiz and Runner also proposed a bill that would delay for three years the donation of human eggs specifically for the purpose of stem cell research. Work could continue on embryos created for in vitro fertilization that were never implanted in a womb.
Ortiz said the proposal, which would not require amending the constitution, stems from her concerns over health risks to women who would donate the eggs. She said those risks would be better understood in three years (Los Angeles Times, 3/17).