Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have enacted into law intellectual property policy provisions covering research funded by the state stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Essentially the bill would have put into statute regulations that were developed by the agency and its board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. Sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Sen. George Runner, the bill — SB 1565 — covered access provisions for drugs and cures developed with state stem cell funding.
Companies would have to have an access plan for uninsured people and drugs or treatments would have to be sold at one of three bench-mark prices if purchased with public funds.
The provisions are very modest and are essentially the same as CIRM’s regulations. What really needs to be passed is a law that would give the state attorney general the power to intervene if any drugs or treatments are priced unreasonably.
The advantage of having these mild provisions enacted into law is that the provisions are less likely to be gutted in the face of industry pressure than if they are merely regulations.
In his veto message Schwarzenegger wrote:
"More than seven million voters were very clear when they passed Proposition 71 in 2004. They wanted to fund embryonic stem cell research that the federal government wouldn’t. They also wanted to make sure that California receives a return for its historic investment in medical research. Both of those important goals are already being accomplished.
"This bill does nothing to advance the will of over seven million voters. For this reason, I am unable to sign this bill."
The governor is wrong. The bill actually would have helped ensure Californians get a return for their $6 billion investment.
Another provision of the bill requested the state’s nonpartisan government efficiency unit, the so-called "Little Hoover Commission" to study the stem cell agency and its board and make recommendations for improvements. However, the governor’s action on SB 1565 in that regard is moot.
Acting on a letter from Sen. Kuehl and Sen. Runner, as well one from me, requesting a study, the commission voted last week to conduct one. The first hearing should be in November.