California Senate Panel Will Have Stem Cell Research Oversight

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 1, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — The new agency created to dole out $6 billion in taxpayer funds for stem cell research authorized under Proposition 71 will have to submit to some oversight from the state legislature.

The Senate Rules Committee has approved a request by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, a Sacramento Democrat, to create a Senate panel that will monitor activities conducted by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The agency has come under fire from lawmakers, pro-life groups, and even Prop. 71 supporters because of its initial violation of state open meetings laws and conflicts of interest with biotech firm officials serving on it.

The newly created panel will hold public hearings to monitor the stem cell research agency, that plans to award $300 million annually to researchers involved in the controversial field.

Ortiz, who will head the new subcommittee, told the San Diego Union newspaper that she plans to hold the first hearings later this month or in March and will ask leaders of the CIRM to appear to answer questions.

She hopes to highlight the conflicts of interest, make decisions and information more public and to ensure that women are not coerced into donating human embryos for research.

Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Ortiz, told the San Diego paper that the state senator wants to "ensure that California and its very generous contribution to this very important research is being handled appropriately."

Robert Klein, the real estate magnate who heads CIRM has previously blasted Ortiz for "meddling" in the agency’s affairs.

However, a CIRM representative told the Union that the agency welcomes the oversight.

"She’s obviously a strong supporter of the effort," said Fiona Hutton, a spokeswoman for the Institute. "The (governing board) is happy to work with her and all other legislative task forces."

The Stem Cell Research Oversight subcommittee will fall under the full Senate Health Committee.