July 18th, 2008 14:52 EST
Another Stealth Attempt to Ignore the Will of Voters? Stem Cell
Just last November, New Jersey voters soundly and resoundingly rejected a scheme to borrow $450 million for stem cell research because our citizens did not want more debt and higher taxes for impractical and immoral embryonic stem cell research. Still, Assemblyman Neil Cohen recently announced plans to introduce legislation to create the "New Jersey Stem Cell Research Assistance Program" purporting to jumpstart financing for stem cell research in the State. The plan would include taxpayer indemnification for private investors when research institutions default on loans. The proposal also would expand the authority of the Economic Development Authority and the Commission on Science and Technology.
A recent report, however, suggests that the proposal will violate the will of New Jersey`s voters on embryonic stem cell research. The current edition of NJ BIZ reports, "Under Cohen`s plan, the money raised would be used to extend loans to stem cell research, and there could later be funding for embryonic stem cell research, [Cohen] said." (NJ BIZ, July 7, 2008, "Is Private Stem Cell Funding Coming" (emphasis added)).
"We will urge opposition to this and any other stealth effort to circumvent the will of the people unless there is a guarantee expressly written into the legislation that this proposal shall never include funding for embryonic stem cell research," stated Marie Tasy, Executive Director of New Jersey Right to Life. "As presently written, this proposal sets the foundation to later enact an end-run around the voters to fund embryonic stem cell research. The impractical, immoral, and unsafe nature of embryonic stem cell research will ensure a default on loans, guaranteeing tax credits to the financial institutions, which, in turn, will be transferred onto the backs of the hard working citizens of New Jersey through higher taxes," Tasy said.
"I am heartened by indications that our State is turning its attention to effective and morally acceptable research with adult stem cells, which holds so much encouraging and life-saving potential. I also remain opposed to any effort to put New Jersey on a path toward taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell experimentation, which New Jersey voters wisely rejected last Fall. Trenton lawmakers should not seek to achieve through the backdoor what they lost at the ballot box, and I will stand with like-minded Members of the Legislature to oppose such efforts," stated Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26, Morris & Passaic).
"Last year, the voters of New Jersey said NO to government-sponsored stem cell research. Unfortunately, Assemblyman Cohen and his supporters do not understand that NO really means NO. The proposed legislation ignores the express will of the voters and will result in the State of New Jersey subsidizing research activities that the voters do not want. Let the private sector fund medical research. This legislation will also open the door to government- subsidized embryonic stem cell research. New Jersey is broke. The last thing we need to do is grow the size of state government and spend money that we do not have on controversial medical research," said Assemblyman Mike Doherty (R-23, Hunterdon & Warren).
"It is both fiscally and morally irresponsible for government to be involved in trying to surreptitiously subsidize stem cell research that has never produced cures and involves the destruction of human embryos, especially after receiving such an overwhelming and resounding rejection by the voters last November," stated Assemblyman Michael Carroll (R-25, Morris).
"As a member of the Commission on Science and Technology, I have consistently voted against funding of embryonic stem cell research and I will continue to do so. Hopefully, the sponsor will not go down that path," stated Assemblyman John Rooney (R-39, Bergen).
Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, (R-24, Sussex, Morris, Hunterdon), a staunch opponent of embryonic stem cell research, is concerned that this will lead to taxpayer funding of this research in New Jersey. "The NJ BIZ article speaks for itself by admitting that this could open the door to funding this kind of unethical research," said McHose, a member of the Assembly Budget Committee. "The voters in 2007 said a loud and clear `NO` to using taxpayers` dollars to fund this research," McHose stated. "I foresee this bill as a starting point for the Governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature to eventually make an end run around the voters` rejection of public funding. It would be un-democratic for them to do so."