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State Actions on Stem Cell Research

President Bush’s veto of a measure to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research leaves a handful of states on the contentious cutting edge of government efforts to boost the fledgling science in the United States. Governors and lawmakers in five states have stepped into the breach left by Bush’s August 2001 decision to curtail federal funding of the science, allocating state funds to support the controversial research. The Bush administration and others, primarily in the anti-abortion movement, oppose embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Proponents, including a majority of American and high-profile Republicans such as Nancy Reagan, support public funding of the science because of its potential to cure debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and juvenile diabetes. At the state level, many pro-business Republicans favor public funding of the science for the jobs and economic benefits it is expected to create. California was the first to fund the emerging science, appropriating $3 billion through a 2004 voter initiative. In addition, the day after Bush’s veto, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger granted a $150 million loan to the group appointed to make the scientific grants, because the earlier appropriation has been tied up in court over patent rights and other issues. Also last week, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) bypassed the state legislature, granting $5 million to stem cell research. The grant follows an initial state allocation of $10 million to the research in 2005. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. (R), signed a law in March creating a state panel that will award grants based on annual funding availability, starting with $15 million in grants this year. New Jersey lawmakers appropriated $5.5 million to the research in 2004 and Connecticut appropriated $200 million over 10 years in 2005. This year New York and North Carolina lawmakers are considering similar state support for the science.But stem cell research advocates say limited state funds are inadequate and that without federal funding, the U.S. will fall behind in this emerging field. See story: Stem cell wars rage in state capitols. Read More