Monday, January 08, 2007

Time for a ballot proposal on stem cell research in Michigan

If Dawson "Scrappy Doo" Bell of the Free Press is correct, the new Michigan Legislature will not address the issue of loosening our restrictive laws on embryonic stem cell research, once again holding our state's fortunes hostage to the wishes of a small minority of the religious right.

According to one survey, 72% of Roman Catholics favor this research. So, we are talking the extreme of the extreme here, as far as denying our state goes.

That's it. Time for a ballot proposal. Just as with raising the minimum wage, it looks like the people will have to take matters into their own hands to get things done.

LANSING -- Supporters of embryonic stem-cell research were heartened when the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives decided to include a push for federal funding for the research in their "first 100 hours" agenda rolled out this week in Washington.

If our laws restrict it, we don't get to partake of the funding, correct? Not only do our schools and scientists lose out, we deny job creation, too.

But in Lansing, movement on stem-cell legislation will come more slowly -- if at all.

Democrats took the state House and narrowed the Republican majority in the state Senate in the November election and Democrats are, generally, more in favor of stem-cell research.

Still, the overall balance of power in Lansing on the issues of abortion, stem cells and cloning is relatively unchanged because many Democrats don't support a change in the existing Michigan law, which prevents the destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research.

Does the name Jim Talent mean anything to you guys?

This is going to be a problem, just as I predicted. House Democrats have frequently voted with Republicans on "social" issues such as this. Maybe it's time to identify those Dems and pressure them. Their constituents should know what they are up to.

Rep. Andrew Meisner, D-Ferndale, the most prominent booster of changing the Michigan law, said Friday he plans to reintroduce legislation probably around the end of the month. Supporters say that research on embryonic stem-cell lines holds the promise to cure diseases and grow organs to replace those that are diseased or damaged.

Meisner said the state's new speaker of the House, Rep. Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, assured him he won't block the issue from coming up for a vote. Last year, Meisner's legislation received a committee hearing, but no vote.

Yes, let's get this to a vote. We need to know who, exactly, would deny this to our state and our people.

The MCC isn't worried.

Paul Long, vice president of the Michigan Catholic Conference, which leads opposition to the Meisner bill, said Friday he doesn't see much movement on the issue as a result of the election.

Long said he expects advocates to push the issue early. But "given the number of pro-life members in the state House and Senate," he said opponents remain confident they can keep Michigan's ban in place.

Well, then, let's saddle up.

Supporters of changing the law have said they may take the issue directly to voters, likely in the 2008 presidential election, if the Legislature doesn't take action.

By then other states will have taken the lead on this issue, perhaps getting that federal funding, coming up with amazing breakthroughs at their universities, and then we will have plenty of ammunition to use.

And maybe some people will lose their jobs over this one.

They deserve it. Enough is enough.