Lawyer: California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Panel Meeting Improper

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Lawyer: California Embryonic Stem Cell Research Panel Meeting Improper

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 16, 2004


Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com)
— An attorney has asked state officials to prevent the new committee that will oversee the distribution of $6 billion in funding for embryonic stem cell research from gathering Friday, saying it violates the state’s open meetings law.

Berkeley attorney Charles Halpern crafted a letter Thursday to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer saying officials improperly set up the first get together as a "special meeting," which requires a lesser advance public notice.

According to a San Diego Union Tribune report, Halpern, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, says organizers of the meeting also failed to allow time for public input into its decision making.

Halpern contends that the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act stipulates that officials can only discuss the specific reason for having a "special meeting" during the meeting. While the primary agenda item is the election of a chairman and vice-chairman, eight other items for business appear on the official agenda.

Real estate magnate Bob Klein, the man who wrote the Proposition 71 measure, will likely become the panel’s chairman.

"We must have a true democratic and deliberative process to fill these positions," Halpern said. "I can’t see how a committee member who gets nominated on Monday can show up on Friday and make important decisions."

A spokesman for the state’s leading pro-life organization tells LifeNews.com he agrees with Halpern’s arguments.

"Halpern is absolutely right to challenge the charade that this Proposition 71 Committee is ‘open’ to public input," California Pro-Life Council director Brian Johnston said.

"The actual wording of the measure allows a handful of biotech firms to pour $3 billion of taxpayer funds into any ‘project’ they choose, to channel the profits where they see fit, and prevent the public or elected officials from having any say in this," Johnston told LifeNews.com.

Johnston pointed to efforts by state Senator Debra Ortiz, a one-time advocate of Proposition 71, who is chagrined that the process has become so secretive. She is proposing legislation to reform the process.

"And of course, now that they have our money, they have rebuffed her," Johnston said.

According to the Tribune report, Halpern says time is only allotted at the very end of the meeting for public input.

Paul Hefner, a spokesman for state Controller Steve Westly, told the Tribune that the proper meeting conditions have been met.

However, Lockyer spokesman Tom Dressler indicated the attorney general will investigate the claims of the letter.

Related web sites:
California Pro-Life Council – https://www.californiaprolife.org