State Weighs Tabling Stem Cell Funding

Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick)
Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick) (Courtesy Of Alex-x. Mooney)
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By Annapolis Digest
Friday, February 22, 2008

Legislative analysts are recommending that the Maryland General Assembly temporarily suspend new funding for stem cell research grants, a move that would save $23 million next year.

Demand for the program, which was created in 2006, has been strong, but analysts said that funds provided by the legislature are outpacing distribution by the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO).

Representatives of TEDCO and a stem cell advocacy group spoke against the recommendation yesterday at a hearing by a Senate budget subcommittee.

"Any cessation of stem cell funding, however temporary, will send a message to the scientific community that Maryland is pulling back on its commitment to this potentially life-saving research," said Ren┬┐e M. Winsky, TEDCO's president and executive director.

Lawmakers allocated $15 million for the grants in 2006, and contracts were signed in December, according to analysts. An additional $23 million was allocated by the legislature last year. The earliest that money could be distributed is June, analysts said. In his proposed budget for next fiscal year, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) included another $23 million.

Among those urging lawmakers to maintain the funding was John Kellerman, president of Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research, who has Parkinson's disease, one of several conditions for which advocates say stem cell research holds promise.

"We know times are tough with the Maryland budget, and we are sincerely grateful for Governor O'Malley's appropriation," Kellerman said. "These research grants create jobs, generate tax revenue and keep Maryland competitive in this growing scientific field."

Maryland is among several states that have funded research in the wake of an executive order by President Bush that limited federal support for work on embryonic stem cells.

-- John Wagner

Bill Would Add Homeless To Md.'s Hate Crimes Law

Homeless people would be added to Maryland's hate crimes law as a protected class under legislation passed yesterday by the state Senate. Under current law, certain crimes are subject to enhanced penalties when motivated by a victim's race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or national origin.

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