The Californian Republican Party has voted at its annual convention to oppose a bill that would provide the state with $3 billion dollars for embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. The California Research and Cures Initiative, which began in February, is backed by the group Californians for Stem Cell Research and Cures (CSCRC).
The campaign group wants to provide $295 million of state funding per year to Californian universities, research institutes and companies involved in research into ES cells taken from human embryos that are less than two weeks old. It also wants to allocate funding for cloning projects to create ES cells for regenerative therapies, but specifies that cloning for reproductive purposes is not to be allowed. CSCRC also proposed that a 29-member panel be established, appointed by state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, chancellors of the University of California and other officials, to distribute the funds in the form of grants.
The bond proposal, known as proposition 71, qualified in June for the 2 November ballot. In order to do so, CSCRC had to obtain the signatures of 600,000 Californians by 16 April, but the petition far exceeded this number: over one million voters had signed by that date. Supporters of the proposal then submitted the petition to Kevin Shelley, the Californian Secretary of State, who authorised it for ballot. If the proposal succeeds, California would be the first state in the US to publicly fund ES cell research.
The Republicans claim to oppose proposition 71 'largely as a budget issue', claiming that the true cost of the measure would be double the $3 billion estimated because of interest that would have to be paid. Mike Spence, chair of the Republican's initiative committee, said 'there are people on our committee who support embryonic stem cell research that voted to oppose proposition 71', adding 'there's billions in bonds, a new state agency that's unaccountable... and there's cloning involved'. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's governor, is said to be 'in a tight political spot' as to whether to support or oppose the measure, as he risks offending voters whichever way he goes. However, in the past he has said publicly that he endorses ES cell research.