While the League of Women Voters of California supports ongoing stem cell research, we are neutral on Prop 14 because of the funding mechanism used and because of the requirement for a supermajority vote to amend its provisions. Prop 14 would authorize the use of general obligation bonds to continue funding stem cell research through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). However, general obligation bonds are designed for long-term financing of capital projects, purchase of facilities for public use, and repair or retrofitting of public facilities and structures – not for funding specialized research by an entity that has little state oversight. Furthermore, the legislature is prohibited from changing the law without a 70 percent supermajority vote, thereby restricting state representatives’ ability to carry out their responsibilities. Finally, profits from intellectual property agreements could only be spent on CIRM-funded research treatments, limiting the state’s flexibility to spend funds on matters that might be more urgent.
If Proposition 14 is approved by the voters, $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds will be available to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund increased research, educational, and infrastructure objectives.
CIRM was established in 2004 by the passage of Proposition 71, a $3 billion bond measure to facilitate and support stem cell research in California, with debt payments paid primarily from the General Fund. In 2004 there was a national debate regarding the ethics of stem cell research using embryonic stem cells and a threat of reduced federal funding for ongoing research. Prop 71 authorized CIRM to award grants and loans for stem cell research and research facilities, created an oversight committee, contained a provision that revenues from intellectual property agreements would be deposited into the state’s General Fund, and required a 70 percent supermajority vote in the State Assembly for amendments to the bill. At that time, it was anticipated that revenues from property rights would fund future and continuing research.
As of June 2020, only $30 million of the initial $3 billion remains for grants. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, revenue from the intellectual property agreements to the state have amounted to approximately $350,000.
If Prop 14 passes, the $5.5 billion bond proceeds will go to CIRM to fund more research, expanded clinical trial sites, establishment of educational programs at the University and Community College level, and increased staffing. Prop 14 modifies the revenue sharing provision with the state by requiring the state to use revenue to offset the costs of CIRM-funded research treatments for patients with insufficient means. Prop 14 retains the 70 percent supermajority vote required for amendments to the bill.