Voters OK stem-cell, children’s hospital initiatives

Proposition 71, approved in the Nov. 2 general election, calls for the state to spend about $295 million a year over the next decade on stem cell research in California. The proposition was one of five health-related initiatives on the ballot, and UC will have a leadership role in the implementation of the initiative.

UC officials expect that the main benefit of Proposition 71 will be the discovery and creation of new knowledge. However, even though there is hope that these discoveries will lead to better understanding and treatment of disease, UC officials also emphasize that it is important to recognize that the road from basic discoveries to marketable drugs and therapies is a long one.

At UC Davis, there are a number of research projects involving stem cells. The activities include finding ways to use stem cells to treat liver disease; using gene therapy for fetal heart, lung and blood diseases; generating stem cells to reverse the damage caused by strokes; and restoring or improving eyesight in patients suffering from severe corneal damage.

Initial plans call for Claire Pomeroy, executive associate dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, to be nominated to serve on the Independent Citizens Oversight Commis-sion, established by the legislation.

Here is a summary of the results on the health-related ballot initiatives:

Proposition 61 -- Children's Hospital Bonds -- Passed, 58.2 percent to 41.8 percent. Authorizes $750 million in general obligation bonds, to be repaid from the state's General Fund, to fund grants to children's hospitals.

Impact on UC: Each of the five UC children's hospitals will be eligible for $30 million, which is 20 percent of total funding.

Proposition 63 -- Mental Health Services Expansion and Funding. Tax on Incomes Over $1 million -- Passed, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. Imposes a 1 percent tax on taxable income over $1 million to provide dedicated funding for expansion of mental health services and county programs for mentally ill.

Impact on UC: No direct impact on UC, but this initiative could provide indirect benefit to some UC students preparing to enter the mental health field by increasing loan forgiveness programs and student stipends.

Proposition 67 -- Emergency Medical Services -- Failed, 71.9 percent to 28.1 percent. Increases the 911 surcharge to 3.7 percent, which would raise $550 million. Sixty percent of funding would go to hospitals and be distributed based on a complex formula that includes number of visits, uncompensated care, and county indigent numbers.

Impact on UC: UC would have received $16.4 million.

Proposition 71 -- Stem Cell Research, Funding, Bonds -- Passed, 59.3 percent to 40.7 percent. Funds up to $3 billion in bonds repaid out of state General Fund. Amends the state constitution and statutes. It establishes the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to regulate stem cell research and provide funding, through grants and loans, for such research and research facilities.

Impact on UC: It is not possible to estimate how much money the UC system would expect to receive in research grants from the ballot initiative. It is expected UC would be competitive in an award process. The measure has the potential to attract private funding and stem cell researchers to California.

Proposition 72 -- Referendum Petition to Overturn Health Care Coverage Requirements -- Failed, Yes - 49.3 percent to No - 50.7 percent. By voting "no" on this measure, voters overturned amendments to health care coverage embodied in SB 2, landmark legislation signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis on Oct. 5 to mandate employer-sponsored health insurance for their workers.

Impact on UC: The latest estimate of UC's total additional cost for coverage that would have been required under the bill is over $5 million at 2004 costs, not including administrative costs.

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