The Senate Health Care Committee in the US state of Florida voted 7-1 last week in favour of a bill that would provide state funding for embryonic stem cell (ES cell)research. Senate Bill 468, sponsored by Democrat Senator Ron Klein, would provide $15 million of state funds for ES cell research on embryos left over from fertility treatments and donated for research by patients. The bill also sets some ethical limits on the research, by establishing guidelines to monitor and track the donation of ES cells in the state.
The bill needs to be approved by other Senate committees before it can proceed to a full vote, and there is not enough time in the current legislative session to do this - however, in recognition of this, given that preliminary approval has been given, in theory its provisions could be added as amendments to other Senate legislation. However, later in the week, a vote in the Florida Senate did not reach the required two-thirds majority to enable the ES cell bill's provisions to be added to a medical research bill designed to dedicate $30 million to biomedical, cancer and Alzheimer's disease research, following a proposal to do so by Klein, with the vote split only 20-18.
In Wisconsin, State Governor Jim Doyle has signed an executive order allocating $5 million of state funds to a recruitment drive for stem cell researchers. The state's Department of Commerce can now distribute the funds. Signing the order, Doyle said that he hoped it would help to 'turn back these senseless attacks on stem cell research', adding 'as long as I am governor, our state government will do everything it can to promote this research'.
In Missouri, the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures (MCLC), has announced that it has submitted far more than enough petition signatures needed to place the Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative on the November state ballot. MCLC is a group that last November launched a state-wide advertising campaign asking voters to sign petitions to enable it to put the measure on the ballot. The group needed 145,000 signatures on its petitions to do so, and has now submitted almost double that. 'Over the past several months, 288,991 Missouri citizens signed petitions to allow a public vote on this important measure, which is nearly twice as many signatures as required', said Donn Rubin, Chair of the MCLC. The petitions were a response to efforts in the state legislature designed to restrict the research in the state.
However, since the signatures were submitted, Republican state Senator Jim Talent has issued a press statement saying that he will oppose the November ballot measure. 'I personally cannot support the initiative', he said, adding 'I've always been opposed to human cloning and this measure would make cloning human life at the earliest stage a constitutional right'. However, a representative for his opponent, Claire McCaskill, who supports the initiative, said that 'obviously Senator Talent is confused himself, because the initiative strictly prohibits human cloning'.