by Steven Ertelt
September 11, 2007
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — The stem cell research panel that voters set up to spend billions of taxpayer funds on embryonic stem cell research is finally ready to begin selling bonds to finance the grants it plans to make. They’ve been held up because of a lawsuit from pro-life and taxpayer groups saying the panel violated state laws.
Three years after getting voter approval, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will sell $250 million in bonds starting on September 27.
The interest rate on the sale of the bonds won’t be established until closer to the sale date, according to information from the California State Treasurer’s Office.
While voters may think most of the money will go towards cutting edge research that could one day save lives, most of it will be used to pay off old debts.
Dale Carlson, the institute’s spokesman, told the San Jose Mercury News that the agency will use about $200 million of the proceeds the bonds generate to repay loans CIRM got to run itself during the legal battle.
The rest of the money will fund the institute until next year, when it hopes to sell another bond package to pay for a large round of grants.
Pro-life advocates have been upset with the panel because it determined that all of the grants would be oriented towards embryonic stem cell research, which they oppose because it requires human lives to be destroyed for their stem cells.
They point to the use of adult stem cells as a less controversial type of research and one that has been more effective. To date, it has developed treatments for dozens of diseases and conditions while embryonic stem cell research has yet to help a single patient because of various problems such as immune system rejection issues.
In May, the California Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit filed by pro-life and taxpayers groups saying that the state’s stem cell research agency is running afoul of oversight and accountability laws.
The state’s high court decided against reviewing a state appeals court ruling from February that upheld the legality of the state’s multibillion dollar embryonic stem cell research program.
The appeals court had said the statewide ballot proposal and committee it created were legal despite a lawsuit saying the panel doesn’t abide by all state laws.
CIRM couldn’t sell bonds during the lawsuit to raise the funds because they would have been worthless had state court’s declared the agency unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, the number one scientist at CIRM, Arlene Chiu, interim chief scientific officer since April, sent a letter saying she was resigning.
Chiu directed the scientific review of applications for funding and helped lead the funding policy which eventually determined that projects involving embryonic stem cell research would be the only ones funded by the panel.
In 2004, California voters signed off on Proposition 71 to borrow $3 billion to finance embryonic stem cell research and human cloning projects.