Florida May Have State Vote on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 28, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 28, 2005

Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — Following comments by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that he opposes using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, a local elected official says he plans a state ballot initiative to do just that.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson blasted Bush’s position at a Monday press conference and said he would start a petition drive to put a proposal on the state ballot to seek taxpayer funding for the controversial research.

Aaronson did not say how much money his ballot initiative would seek, but the money would be intended for the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, though the facility has no current plans to conduct embryonic stem cell research.

The governor should "let Scripps run its own show," Aaronson said at a news conference Monday, according to a Sun-Sentinel newspaper report.

"He’s not allowing [embryonic] stem-cell research. That, to me, is deplorable," the local official said.

Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the funding wasn’t an issue, because Scripps doesn’t conduct embryonic stem cell research either in Florida or at its California headquarters.

"This seems purely political," DiPietre explained. "It’s well known that the governor is a big proponent of the life sciences, and Scripps came to Florida knowing the governor’s stance on embryonic stem-cell research."

Scripps spokesman Keith McKeown confirmed to the newspaper that there were no plans for such research in the immediate future and said the institute is only working with animal embryonic stem cell sand human adult stem cells, which have already yielded cures and treatments for 58 diseases and conditions.

DiPietre said Bush would likely oppose Aaronson’s measure, which could be ready for a vote as soon as the September 2006 primary election.

"The governor is opposed to embryonic stem-cell research, and he believes that the taking of human life is immoral," he said.

Some groups are already moving ahead with a proposal to put a funding request on the ballot.

Cures for Florida has started a campaign to collect the 611,000 signatures needed and hopes to obtain as much as $1 billion for the unproven research. Art Brownstein, founder of the group, told the Sun-Sentinel he has plenty of money and volunteers to meet the signature goal.