Friday, October 15, 2004

Now They'll Tug on Superman's Cape 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.: The Man of Steel is barely in the ground, and already the forces of evil are having a field day:
L.A. Weekly has learned that, just a day after the actor’s death, one or more Republican senators put a surprise hold on the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act. The uncontroversial legislation had been expected to sail through committee and then the Senate as easily as it had the House of Representatives where it passed 418 to zero last week. Monday’s action was beyond cruel; it was like opposing Mom and apple pie.

Congressional sources confirmed to L.A. Weekly Tuesday that the hold was placed on the legislation from the Republican side of the aisle. Democratic committee members led by Senator Edward Kennedy are trying to find out which Republican senator or senators sandbagged S. 1010. The way the Senate system works, any senator can delay a bill without accountability because anonymity is assured.

“We’re shocked,” a source inside the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation told L.A. Weekly on Tuesday. “We had been told the bill was going to pass the Senate, but then the Republicans put a hold on the legislation. We heard it was because Chris has been too outspoken on the stem-cell issue. That was the trigger.

“So it would have passed if Chris hadn’t died” . . . .

Reeve’s S. 1010 is identical to the already passed HR 1998, aimed at enhancing and furthering research into paralysis and improving rehabilitation and quality of life for those with spinal-cord injuries. Even so, one or more Senate GOPers made it a casualty of George W. Bush’s mission to confine stem-cell research to a paltry few and inadequate lines despite the fact that Reeve’s legislation had nothing to do with that issue. That’s worth repeating: The thespian’s bill had nothing to do with stem-cell research. Not only did the legislation have bipartisan co-sponsorship, Reeve’s foundation cited the support of Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services secretary.
In California, meanwhile, the heavily-promoted Prop 71, which would authorize $3 billion in state funding for stem-cell research, is running into fresh opposition because the state is so desperately strapped for cash:
Union leaders and other participants in a newly formed "Pro-Choice Alliance Against Prop. 71" held a press conference Wednesday in Sacramento to press the case that this was no longer a conflict between the religious right and the pro-choice left.

"We're in favor of stem cell research, but this is the wrong initiative," said Deborah Burger, a nurse for Kaiser Permanente in the East Bay who serves as president of the nurses union . . . .

The proposition's backers insist that the overwhelming majority of progressives and mainstream women's rights groups back the stem-cell initiative, pointing to a long list of endorsers including Planned Parenthood, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the California unit of the National Organization for Women. Nearly all the leading medical organizations and patient-advocacy groups have signed on in support . . . .

An economic analysis commissioned by the Prop. 71 proponents suggests the state stands to profit by at least half a billion dollars in new tax revenues and royalties if the research produces even modest successes.

But there are no guarantees. Whether or not there's a big payoff, state taxpayers would be on the hook for an estimated $200 million a year in bond payments after an initial 5-year grace period.

That's a gamble the state can ill afford, according to Prop. 71 opponents.

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