High court affirms constitutionality
of California stem cell research program
Photo courtesy Harvard
By Julia Cheever
May 17, 2007
The California Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the constitutionality
of the state's $3 billion voter-approved stem cell research program.
The court, in an order issued at its San Francisco headquarters,
refused to take up several groups' appeals of a lower court ruling
that upheld the program.
The action means the decision by the Court of Appeal in February
is the final state court ruling in the case and that the $3 billion
in bonds approved by voters for a 10-year period can now be issued.
The program, known as the California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine, was approved by voters in Proposition 71 in 2004. The
institute is based in San Francisco and is governed by a 29-member
Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee.
Committee chairman Robert Klein said the program "now has
Klein said, "The future for the next decade is assured for
California and for research on the stem cell frontier."
Klein said the institute will issue its first $250 million bond
Part of the first bond will repay interim funding provided by
loans while the program was being challenged in court, Klein said.
That funding included a $150 million state loan authorized by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and $45 million in loans from private
The interim funding was used to fund $158 million in grants to
university and research institutions thus far. Klein said those
grants make the institute the largest sponsor of stem cell research
in the world.
Schwarzenegger said yesterday, "Today's action by the California
Supreme Court is a victory for our state because potentially life-saving
science can continue without a shadow of legal doubt.
"This decision reaffirms voters' will to keep California
on the forefront of embryonic stem cell research. California's
leadership gives the best promise of finding a cure for deadly
and debilitating diseases," the governor said.
The program was challenged in two separate lawsuits by the California
Family Bioethics Council, and by two taxpayer groups, People's
Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation.
Dana Cody, a lawyer for the tax groups, said no further appeals
Cody said, "This is it. The state Supreme Court was the
last court we could go to."
Cody said embryonic cell research is "experimental research
that will probably never produce anything" and should not
be funded by taxpayers.
The groups claimed the program had inherent conflicts of interest
and violated the California constitution because there was no
direct state control over expenditures of state funds.
They lost their case in Alameda County Superior Court last year
and again in the Court of Appeal in San Francisco in February.
The appeals court said the program had adequate public and financial
accountability and "suffers from no constitutional or other
Supporters say embryonic cell research could be used to develop
new regenerative treatments for diseases and injuries such as
childhood diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and spinal cord damage.
The state program was placed on the ballot in response to the
Bush Administration's decision to restrict federally funded stem
cell research and limit its funding to $25 million per year. President
Bush and some other social conservatives oppose some stem cell
programs because human embryos are destroyed during research.
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