Proposition 14: Authorizes Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research

The California Voter Guide says Proposition 14 authorizes $5.5 billion in state bonds for stem cell and other medical research, including training; research facility construction, and administrative costs. It dedicates $1.5 billion to brain-related diseases and appropriates General Fund money for repayment. It expands related programs.

The fiscal impact is that it increases state costs to repay bonds estimated at about $260 million per year over the next roughly 30 years.

A YES vote on this measure means the state could sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research and the development of new medical treatments in California. If voters approve the measure, California would have to repay the bonds at a rate of about $260 million a year over 30 years, according to the state’s legislative analyst.

A NO vote on this measure means the state could not sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research and the development of new medical treatments in California.

Background

This proposition came about because California’s first-of-its-kind state program to fund stem-cell research is running out of money, and its supporters want voters to provide a $5.5 billion infusion.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has spent nearly $3 billion for research since the non-profit was created in a 2004 ballot question supported by 59% of voters. New stem-cell labs were created around the state and grants were awarded to Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and other prominent institutions.

In the years since, clinical studies have been launched to determine how stem cells might treat a variety of diseases, including , cancer and Parkinson’s, as well as such conditions as spinal paralysis and auto-immune deficiencies.

Proposition 14’s supporters are hoping voters will again support the program, although some acknowledge that with the state caught in a pandemic-infused economic crisis it’s hard to guess how the electorate will react. Early voting begins Monday for the Nov. 3 election.

Proposition 14’s opponents argue the $5.5 billion bond purchase would unnecessarily add debt during the economic downturn and question whether the state got enough bang for its first $3 billion.

Critics also question whether there is as much a need for California to carry the lead role in stem-cell research now as there was in 2004. At that time, the George W. Bush administration had banned the use of federal funds for research using newly created human embryonic stem cell lines. The Obama administration lifted that ban in 2009, and since then, more federal funds for research have been made available through the National Institutes of Health and other sources.

Supporters of Prop. 14 worry the ban could be reinstituted. A recent letter signed by more than 90 members of Congress is calling on President Donald Trump to do just that, noting that the Trump administration has already restricted the use of federal funds and research involving the use of fetal tissue.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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