The following highlights recent news of state actions on human embryonic stem cell research.

Florida: State Rep. Franklin Sands (D) on Tuesday filed a bill (HB 555) that would require the state to provide at least $20 million annually over the next 10 years for research using human embryonic stem cells, amniotic fluid-derived stem cells and adult stem cells, the AP/Sarasota Herald Tribune reports (Royse, AP/Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1/23). The bill would require formation of a Stem Cell Research Advisory Council and Biomedical Ethics Advisory Council to regulate research procedures and enforce ethical guidelines. It also would prohibit "certain acts" relating to human reproductive cloning or the purchase or sale of embryonic fetal tissue for research purposes (HB 555 text, 1/23). Gov. Charlie Crist (R) supports the measure and has said it is one of his budget priorities. Similar legislation was proposed last year in the state Legislature but failed to reach a floor vote. Senate President Ken Pruitt (R) said he personally supports the bill but would not push the members on how to vote. House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) opposes the measure but has said he would not urge members to vote against it (AP/Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1/23).

Iowa: Gov. Chet Culver (D) on Thursday called on the state Legislature to lift the state's five-year-old ban on a type of embryonic stem cell research called somatic nuclear transfer and proposed the construction of a $12.5 million Center for Regenerative Medicine, the Omaha World Herald reports (Hansen, Omaha World Herald, 1/26). Somatic cell nuclear transfer is conducted by inserting the genetic material from a patient's cell -- usually from a skin cell -- into an unfertilized egg from another person. The patient's genetic material combines with the egg and causes it to develop into an embryo that is a genetic match to the skin cell patient (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/20/06). The ban was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2002. Vilsack last year called for a repeal of the ban, saying science had evolved since he had signed the measure. Culver said the ban has put Iowa at a disadvantage with other states where universities were pursuing embryonic stem cell research. According to Culver aides, the Center for Regenerative Medicine would be located at the University of Iowa and would be funded with $2.5 million from the current budget and $10 million from the budget for the fiscal year that begins in July (Beaumont, Des Moines Register, 1/25).

Missouri: Some lawmakers have criticized Gov. Matt Blunt's (R) proposed $21.4 billion budget because they say it would restrict money under the state's life sciences trust fund to support plant and animal sciences research and would not go toward embryonic stem cell research, the AP/Belleville News-Democrat reports. Money from the life sciences trust fund comes from a portion of the state's the national tobacco settlement and supports research done in conjunction with other governmental and not-for-profit organizations. The fund, for which Blunt requested $35.7 million, is distributed by a seven-member board appointed by the governor, the AP/News-Democrat reports. The fund is barred from supporting research on human cloning and abortion. Last year was the first year money from the fund could be appropriated; however, state legislators withheld the money because of financial worries and concerns that the money could support embryonic stem cell research. A spokesperson for the governor said the debate over embryonic stem cell research was not a factor in Blunt's budget proposal (Blank, AP/Belleville News-Democrat, 1/25).

New Mexico: The state's three Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday met with Gov. Bill Richardson (D) to urge him to reconsider his plans to use state funds to support embryonic stem cell research, the Alamogordo Daily News reports. Richardson earlier this month submitted to the state Legislature a budget that includes a one-time $3.8 million funding request and $2.2 million in annual funding to build a facility for stem cell research (Rubel, Alamogordo Daily News, 1/26). Richardson, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has proposed providing $10 million over three years on facilities, equipment, training and staffing for an adult and embryonic stem cell research center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. By using state funds to build the facility, New Mexico would bypass a federal ban on conducting embryonic stem cell research in spaces built with federal funds, according to the AP/Santa Fe New Mexican. The bishops said they oppose embryonic stem cell research but would support research using adult or amniotic fluid stem cells (Baker, AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 1/26). "To use the stem cells of the embryo, from something that is already human life, then we would be totally against that," Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., said. Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., said, "We hope that there wouldn't be money used to develop the research that is ethically problematic." Richardson will consider the bishops' concerns, Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesperson for the governor, said (Alamogordo Daily News, 1/26).

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