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California to Vote on $3B Stem Cell Initiative

June 07, 2004

California voters will be at the forefront of a highly controversial issue this November when they are asked to decide on a $3 billion bond issue to fund stem cell research.

The initiative, if passed, would provide $295 million annually to California researchers over the next 10 years. Under the proposal, priority for funding would be given to stem cell research that does not qualify for federal funding, and up to 10 percent could be used to build research facilities for nonprofit research organizations.

The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative is an implicit referendum on an executive order by President George Bush, according to a recent article from the Los Angeles Times. In 2001, Bush restricted the use of federal funds for stem cell research to a small number of cell colonies that already existed. Earlier this year, however, 206 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter urging President Bush to rescind his policy on stem cell research and allow for the use of existing embryos donated by couples from fertility clinics.

Supporters say more than 400,000 embryos in storage would otherwise be destroyed. And, Republicans and Democrats alike are joining the effort to expand stem cell research, it seems. Of the 206 signatures sent to the President, 36 were from fellow Republicans.

The willingness of outspoken conservatives such as former first lady Nancy Reagan and California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, an anti-choice leader, backing the issue encourages hope that the President will adjust his policy, according to a recent Washington Post article.

Concerns about the voter referendum's price tag have been raised over borrowing more money, given that California already is in debt. However, initiative proponents say new revenue and royalties from patents that may result from research breakthroughs would pay off the cost of the bonds. Aside from paying back the debt, supporters say the state’s economy would also benefit by drawing more researchers to its universities and laboratories.

The specific language for California's stem cell research initiative is available at: http://www.curesforcalifornia.com/site/PageServer?pagename=facts_initiative