Government efficiency organization will study stem cell agency

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California’s Little Hoover Commission voted at its meeting this week to examine the state stem cell agency’s governance structure and oversight committee.  I expect the first public hearing about the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will come in November.

Here’s how the commission describes itself:

"The Little Hoover Commission is a bipartisan, independent state body that promotes efficiency and effectiveness in state programs.  Created in 1962, the Commission is formally named the Milton Marks ‘Little Hoover’ Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy.  As a member of the Assembly, former Senator Milton Marks authored legislation creating the Commission.

"The Commission is modeled after a federal commission created in 1947 to address the growth of government, chaired by former President Herbert Hoover.  The federal panel became known as the ‘Hoover Commission’, while the California panel has become known as the ‘Little Hoover Commission.’ "

When Sen. Sheila Kuehl first introduced SB 1565 intended to enact CIRM intellectual property regulations into law, the bill also mandated that the Little Hoover Commission check out CIRM and its governing board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC).

The trouble with that approach is the legislation creating Little Hoover specifically says the commission decides what they are going to investigate. If they could be required to do something, they wouldn’t be independent.

Stuart Drown, Little Hoover Commission executive director
, came to a news conference I held last Spring supporting SB 1565 and told me that. He also said that any citizen can suggest a topic for the commission to study.

Guess what I did? You can read the letter I wrote asking the commission to check out CIRM here.

Sen. Kuehl amended her bill changing the mandate to a request.  I believe her office also sent a letter asking Little Hoover to look into CIRM.

SB 1565, which passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, is on the governor’s desk. Some stem cell research advocates have lobbied hard against the bill, partly because they objected to a Little Hoover Commission study.

I don’t get it.  We are talking about $6 billion in public money. What could be more important than ensuring it’s spent fairly and so that all Californians benefit from the research they’re paying for?

You’d think anybody who wants that would welcome an outside independent look and suggestions on how to make things work better.  The good news is no matter what Gov. Schwarzenegger does with SB 1565, the Little Hoover Commission has decided CIRM is worth a study.

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