Reuters 6/17/04

Los Angeles business group backs stem-cell bond

SAN FRANCISCO, June 17 (Reuters) - A Los Angeles business group said on Thursday it would back a California bond initiative to fund stem-cell research, marking the ballot measure's first major endorsement since its organizers briefly paused efforts following Ronald Reagan's death.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said it will announce its endorsement on Friday, a week after funeral services for former U.S. President Reagan, who died on June 5 after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan in May called for stem-cell research to be moved from the political arena, as many scientists believe it may help create treatments and cures for various diseases, including Alzheimer's.

The bond measure qualified for the November ballot two days before the former president died at his Los Angeles home.

The regional chamber of commerce supports the measure because it believes the bond's financing would create a local biotechnology boom and help future economic growth, said Cheyanne Cook, the chamber's public policy manager.

"There would be billions of dollars from job growth, property taxes, taxable sales, patents and licenses," she said.

California Controller Steve Westly, a Democrat, said he would speak on behalf of the bond when the Los Angeles business group endorses it and vowed to lobby the state's Republican-leaning business groups to back the bond campaign.

"We need bipartisan support to make sure we position this state's economy for the future," said Westly. "I expect them to all be on board."

California to issue up to $3 billion in general obligations bonds, backed by the state's general fund, for  research.

Political observers say Reagan's struggle with Alzheimer's could boost the measure as some conservatives reconsider opposition to stem-cell research. President George W. Bush sharply limited such research because cells can come from destroyed human embryos.

If approved by voters, the bond would mark a major investment in unproven technology by authorizing California to issue up to $3 billion in general obligations bonds, backed by the state's general fund, for research.

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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