Sunday, February 25, 2007

Illinois Senate OKs Stem Cell Research

The Associated Press
February 23, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Illinois Senate voted Friday to spend state tax dollars on embryonic stem cell research, despite objections from those who argue the research destroys human life.

The measure passed 35-23 and now goes to the Illinois House.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has already used his executive powers to fund stem cell research. He created the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which has awarded $15 million in grants.

The Senate legislation would make the institute and its grants a part of state law.

Supporters say embryonic stem cells could yield treatments for a wide variety of diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer's. They argue the cells are taken only from embryos created for in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be discarded.

"They go into the public sewer system. I really believe my maker would want me to use these embryos to sustain and improve human life," said one supporter, Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale.

But opponents condemn the research because it involves the destruction of human embryos.

"Obviously we all want cures to diseases. The question is, what are willing to sacrifice to get them?" said Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora. "The unique identity of an individual human being disappears for eternity."

Some senators also questioned the idea of spending money on the research when the state is already in trouble financially.

Illinois joins California, Connecticut and New Jersey as states that are funding embryonic stem cell research using state tax dollars.

The bill is SB4.
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Meanwhile, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's $2 billion stem cell initiative for New York State is apparently getting a cool reception in the Assembly. Specifically, Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, raised a number of red flags about the proposal in an address this month to fellow Assembly Democrats and in a memo he sent to the Spitzer administration. Brodsky's criticisms are in the proposal's fine print, which states that the money could be used for any number of purposes, from "new agribusiness" to "security technologies" and nanotechnology. Mr. Brodsky claims the open-ended nature of the proposal violates a requirement in the New York Constitution that bonds can only be issued for one purpose. Brodsky added that "we need to focus more on stem cell research and less on creating a general economic development pot." He also questioned whether it was worth borrowing $1.5 billion for the initiative instead of paying in cash, estimating that interest alone would cost the state $1.8 billion over 30 years. Complete details were highlighted in a New York Times article.

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