(CBS13/AP) — Proposition 14 has passed. This means the state can sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research and the development of new medical treatments in California.
Following Thursday’s vote count update, Proposition 14 had a 325,000-vote lead and 51% of the votes. It was the narrowest margin of victory for any of this year’s 12 ballot questions.
This proposition came about because California’s first-of-its-kind state program to fund stem-cell research is running out of money, and its supporters want voters to provide a $5.5 billion infusion.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has spent nearly $3 billion for research since the non-profit was created in a 2004 ballot question supported by 59% of voters. New stem-cell labs were created around the state and grants were awarded to Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and other prominent institutions.
In the years since, clinical studies have been launched to determine how stem cells might treat a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s, as well as such conditions as spinal paralysis and auto-immune deficiencies.
Proposition 14’s supporters are hoping voters will again support the program, although some acknowledge that with the state caught in a pandemic-infused economic crisis it’s hard to guess how the electorate will react. Early voting begins Monday for the Nov. 3 election.
Proposition 14’s opponents argued the $5.5 billion bond purchase would unnecessarily add debt during the economic downturn and question whether the state got enough bang for its first $3 billion.
Critics also question whether there is as much a need for California to carry the lead role in stem-cell research now as there was in 2004. At that time, the George W. Bush administration had banned the use of federal funds for research using newly created human embryonic stem cell lines. The Obama administration lifted that ban in 2009, and since then, more federal funds for research have been made available through the National Institutes of Health and other sources.
Supporters of Prop. 14 worry the ban could be reinstituted. A recent letter signed by more than 90 members of Congress is calling on President Donald Trump to do just that, noting that the Trump administration has already restricted the use of federal funds and research involving the use of fetal tissue.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)