June 04, 2007

Florida May Require and Ban Stem Cell Funding

Yet another state getting into stem cells! Two mutually exclusive constitutional amendments, both of which might pass...

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that competing proposals to change the constitution to deal with the issue can go before the electorate in 2008 if the groups pushing the proposals get enough signatures to get them on the ballot. The court said unanimously that the proposed ballot language that voters would be asked to decide on in both cases is clear enough, and only deals with one subject, as required by law. In both cases, the justices said the ballot proposals are clear enough to allow voters to understand the likely consequences of what they're voting on.

One amendment, sponsored by Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, Inc., would require the state Legislature to appropriate $20 million a year for 10 years on grants for embryonic stem cell research. There would be a prohibition on using the embryos for reproductive cloning, that is, to make a baby. And they could only be used if the donors had consented and hadn't been paid to provide the embryos, other than to compensate them for what it costs to actually donate the cells, under the proposal.

The grants would have to go to nonprofit academic and other research institutions in Florida and the winners of the grant money would be chosen based on a peer review process. All of that is included in the proposed amendment.

The amendment to ban state spending on embryonic stem cell research, sponsored by Citizens for Science and Ethics, Inc., is so simple and short that no one argued against it when the Supreme Court held arguments on whether the ballot language was fair. The proposed change simply reads: "No revenue of the state shall be spent on experimentation that involves the destruction of a live human embryo."

Although it's unlikely, there is the possibility that voters could somehow pass both, thus requiring the state to spend money on the studies while simultaneously preventing it from spending money on such studies.

Nothing in the constitution or the law addresses what would happen in such a case, meaning it would have to be decided in the courts. "There is no rule in the constitution with respect to that scenario," said Mark Herron, who practices elections law in Florida.

Ya gotta love it..
-Jim Fossett

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