Ballot measures apparently beget follow-up ballot measures. Such is government by non-legislative referendum. Earlier, we wrote about how supporters of Proposition 16 on the Nov. 3 ballot hope to overturn a 1996 measure that banned affirmative action policies in public institutions in California.
And Proposition 14, also on the Nov. 3 ballot, is the successor to a 2004 measure where voters told the state to borrow more than $3 billion to create California’s own stem cell agency, necessary because federal funding had been banned after pro-life opponents to stem cell research likened it to abortion.
Prop. 14 would allow the state to continue funding stem cell research into chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and epilepsy by borrowing another $5.5 billion.
The stem cells found in human embryos are uniquely valuable to medical researchers since they are not yet differentiated to form different parts of the body and researchers conceivably can turn them into specialized cells to regenerate human cells and tissue. But to maintain a supply of stem cells, scientists destroy lab-created human embryos that are usually created for in-vitro fertilization.
Proposition 71 helped build labs and funded two cancer treatments that have been approved by the FDA, though neither employed embryonic stem cells. Stem cell research also has led to advances in the treatment of several diseases, but other efforts don’t seem to have gotten off the ground.
Proposition 71 hasn’t yet yielded a significant financial return on investment for the state. Though backers never promised medical miracles, campaign ads