Senator Deborah Ortiz, Chair
Senator George Runner, Vice-Chair
Members, Senate Health Committee
RE: Support for SCA 13
Dear Senators Ortiz and Runner, and members of the Senate Health
As a person who has been a public participant in the proceedings
of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee since its first
meeting, I commend you for your leadership in opening a dialogue
between the legislature, the public, and the ICOC. It is a much-needed
supplement to the ICOC process which, regrettably, leaves a
very limited role for public participation and democratic oversight.
Your proposed SCA 13 will go far to address some of the most
serious deficiencies-in oversight and democratic participation--
in Prop. 71 as it was drafted and is being implemented.
A judicious mix of complementary legislation, periodic oversight
hearings, and constitutional amendments is needed to protect
vital public interests.
I support SCA 13, and I hope that the Committee's draft of the
constitutional amendment will remain open for public discussion
and amendment. At the present time I want to urge you to consider
the following amendments to SCA 13:
1. Permit closed meetings of a Working Group when the Working
Group is engaged in peer review of specific grant applications
2. Regarding conflict-of-interest standards (Sec. 8(a)), all
persons enumerated in this section should be subject to state
law disclosure requirements, without modification. The word
"commensurate" is unnecessary and could create confusion.
With regard to NIH standards, CIRM personnel and Working Group
members should be held to conflict-of-interest standards "commensurate
with those that are applied to persons appointed to serve the
NIH or employed by the NIH in comparable positions."
3. Section 6 should be clarified to assure that it does not
affect the outcome of pending lawsuits.
In addition to the above amendments, I encourage you to hold
hearings to consider additional provisions to address the following
1. Assure that the public is adequately informed about sensitive
ethical matters that are involved in particular grant recommendations.
Requiring the issuance of an Ethical Impact Statement on each
grant would be a possible solution, with the process overseen
by the bioethicists on the Standards Working Group. The EIS
should specifically address any grants that involve chimerical
research and cloning. In addition a Supplemental EIS should
be required to report any funded research that leads to the
injury or death of any research subjects.
2. Require effective limitations on the licensing of Prop. 71
funded discoveries so that they do not become available to reproductive
cloning experiments outside the state. Every grantee should
be required to include in its licensing agreements a commitment
not to permit licensed technology to be used for reproductive
cloning. In addition, any person trained or employed in funded
laboratories should agree in advance not to use skills and knowledge
acquired in the funded program to promote reproductive cloning
for a ten-year period.
3. Consider whether the state needs a regulatory mechanism to
oversee the entire field of biomedical research, similar to
the British model. The CIRM's purpose is promotion of such research,
and it is impossible to mix the promotional objective with an
effective regulatory process. Moreover, it has no control over
any activity that is conducted without Prop. 71 money, including
the activity of some commercial ventures that may be operating
free of oversight and with lower ethical standards. This Committee
should hold hearings to consider an effective regulatory scheme.
This Committee has undertaken a critically important process
which provides a necessary complement to the work of the ICOC.
The long-term interests of the stem cell research field-- and
related areas of biomedical research-- demand a well-informed
engagement by the public's elected representatives in the implementation
of the ambitious program funded under Prop. 71.