Santa Monica, CA — The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said that the Proposition 71 stem cell institute could likely overcome legal challenges it faces in court today by strengthening public control and accountability over taxpayer-funded cures.
The stem cell institute, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, is fighting in court for its life and its ability to fund $3 billion in stem cell research. After financing costs, $6 billion of taxpayers’ money is at stake. Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 71, but not a penny has been spent on research, because of the legal challenge.
Lawsuits brought by opponents of embryonic stem cell research claim the institute has violated the California Constitution’s requirement that the state must control taxpayer-funded endeavors. According to the California Constitution, no taxpayer money can be given to a “corporation … or any other institution not under the exclusive management and control of the State…” (Article XVI, Section 3).
In writing regulations for Prop 71 research recently, the stem cell oversight committee did adopt some specific recommendations giving the public more control. However, FTCR said in order to ensure the Constitutional requirement is met, the institute must do more so that all Californians have affordable access to cures as promised by Prop 71 and that the Attorney General must have explicit oversight.
“The stem cell institute got off to a good start by providing for a payback to voters for their $6 billion investment, but they have to do more to ensure that all Californians have affordable access to cures,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR Stem Cell Project Director. “They’ve taken a good first step by requiring publicly funded health programs get drugs at the lowest price available. Now they must put the Attorney General, the state’s top cop, in charge of ensuring that all Californians benefit from affordable cures.”
Unlike most defendants, the stem cell institute could affect the outcome of its case by modifying its behavior even as the trial is under way, FTCR said. The bench trial is before Alameda Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw in Hayward.
“I think the stem cell oversight committee members finally understand they are a state agency and accountable to the public,” said Simpson. “The challenge is to translate the understanding into action.”
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org