The Senate in the state of Illinois, US, last week narrowly rejected a bill that would have promoted human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research in the state. The senators voted 29-28 against Bill 3598, with one senator voting 'present', effectively abstaining from the vote. The bill needed 30 votes to be passed.
Bill 3598, also known as the Ronald Reagan Biomedical Research Act, would have allowed ES cell research to take place in Illinois and established the Illinois Department of Public Health as the overseer of the research. In an attempt to make the bill more 'politically palatable', its sponsors added a clause that would also have banned human reproductive cloning, making it a criminal offence. The bill did not provide funding for ES cell research but was intended 'primarily as a signal to researchers and foundations that Illinois was a friendly climate for them to practice their science'. It may be necessary for states to promote themselves in this way since California passed a measure on 2 November that will provide $3 billion of state funds for ES cell research. Opponents of the bill argued that it would not ban all forms of human cloning and that it was 'morally objectionable' to have to create and destroy embryos in order to obtain stem cells. But supporters say they are 'deeply disappointed' and 'stunned' by the bill's defeat.
Also last week, the governor of the US state of Wisconsin announced that he would allocate $750 million to ES cell research and other scientific research. Governor Jim Doyle said that $375 million of the money, sourced from both state and private funds, would be used to establish and build an ES cell research institute - the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery - at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, between 2005 and 2015.
Speaking to a Wisconsin newspaper, Doyle said that 'Wisconsin can't match California dollar for dollar, but California can't match what Wisconsin already has - including the best scientists in the world and first-class research institutions'. He added that scientists working in California may have to pay royalties to Wisconsin research groups, due to the fact they hold the basic patents for stem cell technology. However, there has already been condemnation of the plans to use state public money for ES cell research, and a 'political battle' is expected, said state representative Dean Kaufert.