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Two US states depart from President on ES cell research

6 June 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 311

The state legislature of Massachusetts, US, has overruled a veto of legislation on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. The legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Robert Travaglini, allows embryos to be cloned for medical research purposes, but prohibits human reproductive cloning. The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the bill by 119 votes to 38 last month, it having previously passed through the state Senate by 34 votes to two. Later, both the House and Senate rejected four amendments proposed by Romney, and sent it back to him for his signature. Last week, he vetoed the bill, but the margin of both votes - above a two-thirds majority - meant that the legislature had the chance to overrule his veto. The House voted 112-42 to do so, with the Senate voting 35-2.

The new law also sets up a stem cell advisory committee to oversee ES cell research in the state and establish safeguards, although it does not provide state funds for researchers. The advisory committee would also advise lawmakers on the issues in ES cell research and, for example, look into issues such as whether women who donate their eggs for ES cell research should be compensated.

Meanwhile, the state of Connecticut House of Representatives has approved by 113 votes to 37 a bill that will ban human reproductive cloning and trade in human gametes and embryos, while providing $100 million in state funding over 10 years for ES cell research in the state. An independent panel of experts will review each request for funding. The bill had passed through the state Senate by 31 votes to three in the previous week. State Governor Jodi Rell has said she will support the bill. 'I would be proud to sign the bill when it reaches my desk', she said, adding 'by fostering research in the field of stem cell research, we can open up a whole new world of medical advancements and cures'.

President Bush, in the meantime, has reiterated his pledge to veto any federal legislation that would relax the policy on ES cell research conducted by federally funded researchers. Current policy prevents the use of state funds for work on ES cell lines derived after 9 August 2001. A bill loosening the restrictions has already passed through the House of Representatives and is expected to be approved by the Senate soon. It would allow federal funds to be used for research on ES cells derived from embryos left over from fertility treatments and voluntarily donated by patients. The House passed the bill by 238 votes to 194, which is not enough, however, to allow the President's veto to be overridden. But Senator Arlen Specter is confident that the two thirds majority can be achieved in the Senate.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Lawmakers Give Stem Cell Research a Push
Yahoo Daily News |  1 June 2005
Massachusetts Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill
Kaiser Network |  1 June 2005
Spotlight Shifts to Senate After Historic House Vote
Science |  3 June 2005
US president and Congress set to clash over stem cell research
British Medical Journal |  4 June 2005
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