NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 17, 2004

California's Proposition 71, a $3 billion initiative to fund stem cell research, is a bad idea for a state currently in a budget crisis, says Wesley J. Smith of the Weekly Standard. Additionally, the initiative is fuzzy with few checks and balances.

For one thing, the $3 billion would have to be borrowed, adding another $3 billion in interest onto its price tag. Moreover, the bill is simply vague and controversial, says Smith:

  • Prop 71 is not merely a law to permit stem cell research, but a constitutional right to human cloning, meaning any changes to its terms and conditions would require another constitutional amendment.
  • Prop 71's language is vague and confusing, never once referring to "embryonic stem cell research," but instead using the term "pluripotent stem cells," which is unfamiliar to many.
  • Proponents of Prop 71 sued to prevent opponents from labeling the bill as a "human cloning" measure, but a judge sided with the opponents, ruling that the term "somatic cell nuclear transfer," which is used in the bill, indeed refers to human cloning,
  • Prop 71 allows for "continuous appropriation," meaning that the state legislature would have no power to alter annual funding; regardless of the state's fiscal condition, biotechnologists would still receive $295 million per year.

Furthermore, while Prop 71 would set up an Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which would oversee the institute that would make grant-funding decisions, the committee would be exempt from some aspects of the state's Open Meeting Laws, creating a shroud of secrecy.

Finally, any changes to Prop 71 could not take place until the third year after it has become law, and such changes would require a super-majority -- 70 percent approval from both houses of the state legislature.

Source: Wesley J. Smith, "An Indecent Proposition," Weekly Standard, October 18, 2004.


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