The House of Delegates in the US state of Maryland has passed a bill (HB1) to authorise state funding of human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, by 85 votes to 54. The bill was introduced in January by Michael Busch, the speaker of the House, as the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2006 - the first bill of the new legislative session. If passed by the state's Senate, the bill will authorise funds of $25 million a year for five years on research using ES cells, as well as adult stem cells. 'Today's vote is about hope', said State Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, chief sponsor of the bill, adding that there are many who might benefit from the research. However, House Minority Whip Anthony O'Donnell said that the bill provides 'false hope'. Republican opponents of the bill are promising a filibuster when a similar bill reaches the floor of the State Senate next week.
A state Senate committee in Mississippi has defeated a ban on human cloning in the state, which had previously passed the House of Representatives by 108 votes to four in February. The Public Health Committee declined to pass the legislation on for debate before it ran out of time. The bill would have prohibited the use of cloning for research purposes as well as human reproductive cloning. Jack Reed, leader of the pro-ES cell research group People of Faith for Stem Cell Research, said that he was pleased with the outcome. 'I would be ashamed if Mississippi put up a wall banning this research', he added.
Meanwhile, a bill under debate in the State Senate of Georgia, sponsored by Senators Casey Cagle and David Shafer, would criminalise ES cell researchers. It would bring in a 10-year prison term for conducting research experiments on human embryos as well as fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the same time, it would promote adult stem cell research. Critics of the proposed legislation say that it would 'place Georgia squarely among states that have the most restrictive laws concerning stem cell research'. The bill is a counter to a far more moderate proposal, sponsored by Senator David Adelman, which would allow ES cell research to take place on left-over embryos from fertility treatments, while prohibiting their deliberate creation for research. Because both bills cannot be passed, the Georgia Biomedical Partnership has suggested that both should be put on hold, at least while a committee spends a year exploring the scientific and ethical ramifications of stem cell research.