Sept. 30, 2008
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed S.B.1565, the Stem Cell Affordability Bill. The bill would have guaranteed accessibility for uninsured Californians to any stem cell therapies developed through the state taxpayer-funded $6 billion stem cell program, given more flexibility for approval of projects by the grants review working group, and provided for an audit of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) governing board. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Sens. Sheila Kuehl and George Runner, had passed through the California legislature with very little opposition (64-7 in the House, 37-1 in the Senate), despite vociferous attacks (including personal attacks on Sen. Kuehl) by CIRM surrogates. Schwarzenegger, with blinders firmly in place, said in his veto statement that voters specifically wanted to fund embryonic stem cells, and that requirements to make state-funded treatments affordable would unnecessarily restrict the agency’s authority to balance patient need with essential research.
According to CIRM’s website, their mission supposedly is to “support and advance stem cell research and regenerative medicine under the highest ethical and medical standards for the discovery and development of cures, therapies, diagnostics and research technologies to relieve human suffering from chronic disease and injury.” But apparently the only part of the statement that is true is to support [embryonic] stem cell research, without any real dedication to the patients. Apparently the scientific committee can’t be trusted to choose the most promising science for patients. California taxpayers were sold a bill of goods in Prop 71, led to believe they would receive affordable therapies from their investment in this research. Yet embryonic stem cells and cloning, preferred by Proposition 71, have yielded not a single treatment for any patient nor any return on the huge investment of taxpayer funds, and CIRM has admitted that after 10 years and all of the money spent there will still be no treatments and no return on the investment. By contrast, other scientists have shown that the new iPS cells are much more promising and easier to produce, and that real treatments are already coming from adult stem cells (CIRM has also denied funds to promising adult stem cell research that is already treating patients.) Sadly, the veto means California taxpayer money will continue to be spent on the least successful, least promising research.