New Jersey Assembly Kills Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 4, 2006

Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The New Jersey legislature has shelved a proposal to spend millions on embryonic stem cell research in the state. Assembly Democrats could not come up with enough votes for the $500 million research package that would have created new stem cell research facilities.

The Assembly has until Tuesday to approve the Senate-backed measure, as the current session of the legislature ends and the bill will have to start over in the next session that starts later this month.

But Democratic leaders said they don’t expect a vote on the measure because they couldn’t find enough votes to build stem cell research centers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

A representative of the Assembly Democratic leadership released a statement about the decision not to have a vote saying "a number of members expressed concerns about the bill and asked for more time."

"They felt the legislation should be dealt with in the new legislative session that begins Tuesday rather than being rushed through in the closing days of this legislative calendar," said spokesman Joe Donnelly.

A spokeswoman for acting Gov. Richard Codey expressed disappointment at the decision.

"The proposed legislation has been around for a year and we think the Assembly has had ample time to review the issues," Kelley Heck said according to media reports.

Assemblyman Neil Cohen, who worked with Codey on the stem cell research proposal, said he would draft a package of new bills for the next legislative session. He is still hopeful that New Jersey voters will get to vote on the proposal on the November ballot. The legislature would have to approve the measure by June 30 for that to happen.

Donnelly said members were concerned about spending so much money at a time of financial concern for the state. He also said some lawmakers were worried about the track record of other states spending heavily on taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

According to news reports, he pointed to California, where a $6 billion proposal approved by voters has been tied up in lawsuits because of conflict of interest violations and other problems.

Pro-life groups will also continue working against the measure because some of the money will go to embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human life. John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American Families, says the legislature should focus its efforts on adult stem cell research.

While adult stem cells have produced treatments for dozens of diseases and conditions, embryonic stem cell research has yet to cure any patients and has problems with patients’ immune systems rejecting the cells.

The measure cleared the state Senate 28-8.