Stem cell researchers at MSU and other state universities might face new transparency requirements because of a provision attached to a higher education appropriations bill passed Wednesday.
The bill, passed by the state House higher education appropriations subcommittee, would require universities to report human embryonic stem cell inventory, the number of projects that included such stem cells and other figures.
State Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, attached the language to the bill in what he called a move to ensure proper stewarding of such embryos by researchers.
“The reporting requirements do not hinder the research or take away from it,” Genetski said. “We just want to make sure we know what kind of care and efforts are being taken.”
It is not the first time state lawmakers have made such a proposal. Genetski, who chairs the House subcommittee, lifted the text from one version of a higher education appropriations bill from spring 2010.
The measure from last year ended up on the cutting-room floor during budget negotiations. Lawmakers in favor of the language argued the provision is necessary because the ballot proposal passed by voters in 2008 that permitted research using human embryonic stem cells needs housekeeping.
Including the language in the bill this time around met immediate opposition from at least one member of the House subcommittee.
State Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, offered a counteramendment that would have stricken the language from the final bill.
“I tried to have that deleted from the bill, just because I feel the voters spoke (in 2008),” said Bauer, who is the committee’s former chair and current minority vice chair, on Wednesday. “They want stem cell research. They don’t want it hindered.”
MSU stem cell researchers in the past have expressed their aversion to such requirements, also pointing to the 2008 ballot proposal as a reason legislation is unnecessary.
Numerous MSU stem cell researchers could not be reached for comment Thursday.
But Leonard Fleck, a professor in MSU’s Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, told The State News in June 2010 that any government intrusion into MSU research is unwarranted and politically motivated.
Fleck was speaking in the context of legislators sparring over the passage of last year’s higher education appropriations bill because of the stem cell reporting requirement.
“It represents the worst kinds of politicking, or the worst kinds of ideological reasons,” Fleck said in June. “The information they’re requesting has no merit as far as public interests are concerned. … The ultimate goal, I suspect, would be to
hinder such research at the universities by either stigmatizing such researchers or calling attention to their work in such a way that would end in people picketing.”