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Archive for Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Lawmakers in 2 states approve stem cell plans

June 1, 2005

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— The state House of Representatives on Tuesday gave final approval to a 10-year, $100 million plan to fund stem cell research, seeking to position Connecticut to compete with other states in the emerging scientific field.

The state Senate has already approved the measure, and it now goes to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has said she would sign it.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Massachusetts, state lawmakers overturned Gov. Mitt Romney's veto and approved a bill designed to move their state to the forefront of stem cell research. The bill immediately became law.

Rell predicted the Connecticut legislation would create unprecedented innovation. The measure would fund research on embryonic and adult stem cells and endorse the research in Connecticut laboratories.

Proponents of Connecticut's measure, pointing to a $3 billion investment in California and a proposed $380 million investment in New Jersey, framed the issue in economic terms, saying the state needed to move swiftly to become a leader in the field.

"What we're saying is, we are supporting stem cell research and that we're willing to put our money where our mouth is in our 10-year commitment," Democratic Rep. Peggy Sayers said.

Scientists believe the cells can be coaxed into any tissue in the body, providing potential for cures for everything from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's, juvenile diabetes to spinal cord injuries.

Connecticut's legislation would spread the investment over 10 years and create an advisory board and a committee to award grants and oversee research. It would also prohibit growing research embryos past about 14 days - or implanting them. It would require fertility clinics to give patients information about donating embryos but prohibit them from accepting payment for embryos, eggs or sperm.

Opponents said the bill permits the creation of life - an embryo - to destroy it.

That's human cloning, and the Connecticut bill does not ban it, said Republican state Rep. T.R. Rowe.

"When we're talking about life, we're not talking about a chimpanzee. We're not talking about a monkey. We're not talking about a rabbit. We're talking about human life," Rowe said.

The vote came as Congress considers lifting a ban on using federal funds for new embryonic stem cell research - a proposal President Bush has threatened to veto.

In Massachusetts, the Legislature voted to override Romney's veto of a bill giving state health officials regulatory controls over the research. Previously, researchers had to seek the approval of the local district attorney.

Romney, a Republican, vetoed the bill last week because it allows the cloning of human embryos for use in stem cell experiments. Romney has said he supports research using either adult stem cells or cells extracted from leftover frozen embryos from fertility clinics.

The new Massachusetts law bans cloning that results in a baby, but that practice is already prohibited under federal law.

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