The legislature of Washington state has rejected a bill that would have encouraged human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. The bill would have banned human reproductive cloning but would have allowed the cloning of embryos for ES cell research purposes, sometimes known as therapeutic cloning. The state's Senate voted 26-23 against the proposals, with only one Republican, Senate minority leader Bill Finkbeiner, voting in favour. Before the vote, state Democrats believed they had enough support to secure the bill's passage, but several Senators seemed to have changed their minds after the debate.
In Maryland, state Senators finished their latest session without giving final approval to their bill on ES cell research. The House of Representatives had already passed a version of the bill earlier this year, but the Senate version was filibustered - or talked out of time. Under Senate rules, a three-fifths majority vote is needed to end debate on any issue and send it for vote - if this isn't reached then opponents can literally 'talk a bill to death'. The bill would have provided, from 2007, $23 million per year for ES cell research, under new state guidelines.
In Missouri, because of divisions in the Republican Party, a bill that would have banned all forms of human cloning has also died. Senator Matt Bartle, the sponsor of the bill, has decided to 'pull' it after encountering opposition from within his own party. 'It has become pretty obvious to me that there is more than enough political will to kill the bill', he said.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, the Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly has approved two bills that would provide $20 million in state funding for ES cell research, while banning reproductive cloning and trade in embryos. Both bills now pass to the Joint Appropriations Committee, and are expected to be melded into a single bill before presentation to the full state House of Representatives and Senate.
In New Jersey, the acting Governor Richard Codey has announced the establishment of a new ethics panel to oversee the state's ES cell research projects. Harold Shapiro, President Emeritus of Princeton University, will lead the panel. Codey allocated $150 million of state funds to the construction of a dedicated ES cell research centre and also intends to raise $230 million for research through bonds, in a similar way to California.