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Californian court backs state stem cell research initiative

5 March 2007
Appeared in BioNews 397

The California First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco unanimously ruled on 26 February that 'Proposition 71' is constitutional, strongly affirming that it 'suffers from no constitutional or other legal infirmity'. Proposition 71 called for the creation of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), its oversight committee and designated $3 billion in state funds over ten years toward human embryonic stem cell (hES cell) research, the world's largest funding initiative for this type of research. The residents of California passed Proposition 71 with a 59 per cent majority in November 2004.

Two taxpayer groups, People's Advocate and National Tax Limitation Foundation, and the California Family Bioethics Council, an anti-abortion group, launched joint litigation against the use of state funds for the programme, essentially freezing the use of its bonds needed to fund the initiative while litigation pended for over two years.

Robert Klein, chairman of CIRM's oversight committee and author of the original proposal for Prop 71, described the victory as 'one huge step for California'. He believes the decision is so strong that the California Supreme Court will likely decline to hear it if the decision were appealed, which is probable according to plaintiff lawyer Dana Cody. If the State Supreme Court refuses to hear a further appeal then the bonds could be free to issue as soon as 120 days from now, and could be used to reimburse the $181 million loan approved by the California Stem cell Research and Cures Finance Committee in November 2006. This followed Governor Schwarzenegger's $150 million general state funds loan mandate and $31 million donated privately, in order to get research started despite the litigation.

The three-judge ruling was delivered in a fifty-eight page decision that upheld the previous Judge Bonnie Sabraw's judgement given in April 2006 at the California Superior Court, which found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the programme's unconstitutionality, and noted that CIRM and its oversight committee 'are operating in the same fashion as other state agencies'.

The appellate court dispelled the three alleged grounds: it did not violate the structure of ballot initiatives, nor any rules on conflicts of interest, nor laws concerning state funding. The judges decided that there was sufficient state control exercised over the funds through state audits and an oversight committee appointed by elected officials which operates appropriate voting precautions to prohibit prejudiced votes. Furthermore, they found no violation of the state law requiring only single-subject ballot initiatives, because they regarded hES cell research to be 'as specific as the circumstances permit' given its early stage of scientific discovery and 'reasonably limited to a single subject'.

Schwarzenegger declared the ruling a 'victory' on behalf of 'California voters'. 'I'm also proud of California's leadership,' he added,' begin work on this potentially life-saving science'. 'Through loans, the Independent Oversight Committee at CIRM earlier this month announced $45 million in grants to 72 research projects at California institutions with another 25 grants totalling $80 million to be announced next month to support hES cell research.

California Appellate Court Panel Upholds Constitutionality of State Proposition Promoting Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Kaiser Network |  27 February 2007
California Stem Cell Research Is Upheld by Appeals Court
The New York Times |  27 February 2007
Court upholds stem cell institute
Los Angeles Times |  27 February 2007
31 August 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in San Francisco has approved a further $243 million to encourage researchers working on stem cell therapies to push forward into the clinical trial phase...
16 November 2009 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded fourteen teams a total of $230 million for the advancement of stem cell therapy. The CIRM was created as a measure by the Californian State to fund work on human embryonic stem (ES) cells.Californian voters approved the 10-year, $3 billion effort in 2004 largely to get around restrictions on ES cell research imposed by the administration of President George W Bush. This year, President Obama's administration relaxed thes...
17 September 2007 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has appointed Professor Alan Trounson as its new president, following a committee vote on Friday last week. Professor Trounson is a renowned Australian scientist and currently the director of Monash University's stem cell program in Melbourne. The CIRM is...
27 February 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The California state stem cell funding initiative, Proposition 71, successfully kicked off on 23 February after a delay of years, with the announcement of who will receive the first wave of research grants - totalling around $45 million (£22.5 million) - for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The...
27 November 2006 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
California's stem cell institute is to be given a cash injection of $181 million to fund research through to the end of next year. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will be given a $150 million loan from the state and has raised the extra $31...
23 July 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
By Heidi Nicholl: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this week authorised a $150 million loan to allow the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund initial research grants while litigation proceeds on the disputed bond allocation. Proposition 71 was passed by Californian voters in November 2004 allowing stem cell research...
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