Taxpayer groups challenge state funding for stem-cell research

.- Two taxpayer groups filed a petition yesterday in the California Supreme Court, requesting that organizations set up to organize and fund stem-cell research be halted.

The petition was filed by the Sacramento-based People’s Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. The Life Legal Defense Foundation represents the petitioners.

The petition requests a peremptory writ of mandate issue, halting efforts by the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC), which was established by the California Stem Cell Research and Cures/Bond Act after the November 2004 election.

The petition asks that various state agencies, authorized under the Act to disburse funds from the State Treasury to the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Fund, be prohibited from doing so since the fund is not under the exclusive management and control of the state, as required by Article XVI, section 3 of the California Constitution.

The petition asserts that the ICOC has no members who are elected, or who are public officials. Rather, all are appointees have allegiances to advocacy groups or to public officers who appointed them, the petition claims. In addition, there is no provision in the Act that provides for the dismissal of any ICOC member.

Members of “Working Groups,” appointed by the ICOC, control the funding. Once appointed, working group members are independent of the ICOC.

Furthermore, the petition points out that there are no guidelines regarding how the funds raised by the bonds are to be spent and there are no external controls for any state agency to monitor spending.

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