House OKs stem cell funding

Senate is to begin debating contentious issue Wednesday

Republican filibuster looms

General Assembly

March 04, 2006|By JENNIFER SKALKA | JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland House of Delegates approved yesterday committing $25 million a year to stem cell research, moving the contentious matter to the Senate, where lawmakers could face a Republican filibuster when debate begins Wednesday.

After an hour of debate, the final House tally was 85-54, with two delegates not voting.

"I still believe that this bill offers hope," said Del. Sally Y. Jameson, a Charles County Democrat who told her colleagues that she has Type 1 diabetes.

Opponents argued that embryonic stem cell research - which uses cells harvested from human embryos - is unproved, though many scientists think it could result in treatments for diseases including Parkinson's, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

"Offering false hope to these people is like trying to sell snake oil," said Del. Gail H. Bates, a Howard County Republican. "It's a cruel hoax."

Besides the money, the House bill would establish a process for proposals to be reviewed by a panel of scientists. Only human embryos that would otherwise be discarded from fertility clinics could be used for research. State money could also be used for adult stem cell research, a less contentious method favored by religious conservatives.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research liken it to abortion because an embryo is destroyed.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday. The bill being pushed by Democratic lawmakers in that chamber would not require annual funding for the research and would leave that decision to the governor. It would set up a commission and a scientific peer review committee for evaluating proposals, and is similar to the House bill in that it would allow state money to be used for a research including embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

The Senate bill, which was amended yesterday by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, replaces "embryo" with "unused material."

The House and Senate bills ban human cloning. They also give Maryland Technology Development Corp. a role in administering grants, a nod to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s stem cell proposal. The governor has said he would like the technology group - a quasi-public agency that focuses on seeding new businesses - to administer his plan to commit $20 million to research.

Republican senators have promised to filibuster the bill, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said the Senate will pass a modest proposal. The funding has been stripped from the bill to alleviate fears that lawmakers are spending irresponsibly, he said.

If the Senate bill is approved, the two bills could go to conference committee, where lawmakers would attempt to mesh the proposals. But either chamber could vote on the other's bill. In that case, observers say, it is more likely that the Senate plan would be passed by the House.

"It's the bill that the House is going to have to take up because we're not going to deal with stem cell [research] twice," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who is the sponsor of the Senate bill.

Ehrlich has stood by his stem cell proposal, which would put the technology corporation in charge of determining the way the money would be distributed. He has said that legislation is not necessary, but lawmakers feel that such a complicated scientific issue requires strict guidelines.

Miller said yesterday that Ehrlich could back the Senate version of the bill because it lacks the funding requirement passed by the House.

"My prediction is he would sign the bill because on this issue he has governed from the middle," Miller said.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

THE VOTE

Here is how members of the House of Delegates voted yesterday on a plan to spend $25 million a year on stem cell research:

HOUSE VOTE

Voting yes

Curtis S. "Curt" Anderson,, D-Baltimore

John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County

Charles E. Barkley, D-Montgomery

Kumar P. Barve, D-Montgomery

Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George's

Elizabeth Bobo, D-Howard County

John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's

Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore

Eric M. Bromwell, D-Baltimore County

William A. Bronrott, D-Montgomery

Anthony G. Brown, D-Prince George's

Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel

Joan Cadden, D-Anne Arundel

Rudolph C. Cane, D-Wicomico County

Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore County

Jill P. Carter, D-Baltimore

Galen R. Clagett, D-Frederick County

Virginia P. Clagett, D-Anne Arundel

Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico County

Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore

Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George's

Steven J. Sr. DeBoy, D-Baltimore County

Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore

Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery

Brian J. Feldman, D-Montgomery

Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery

Barbara A. Frush, D-Prince George's

Tawanna P. Gaines, D-Prince George's

Marilyn R. Goldwater, D-Montgomery

Marshall T. Goodwin, D-Baltimore

Michael R. Gordon, D-Montgomery

Melony Ghee Griffith, D-Prince George's

Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery

Peter A. Hammen, D-Baltimore

Hattie N. Harrison, D-Baltimore

Keith E. Haynes, D-Baltimore

Henry B. Heller, D-Montgomery

Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery

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