Election Guide: Here's What You Need to Know About Proposition 14

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Proposition 14 on the November ballot asks voters to approve $5.5 billion to continue funding stem cell research in California.

Supporters said the research has already lead to important medical breakthroughs, including for COVID-19 victims. Opponents said the proposition is more "shameless overpromising" with money that could be better spent elsewhere.

California voters have been though this before.

In 2004, state voters approved Proposition 71, which meant $3 billion for stem cell research and to establish the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM. The group's chairman and Proposition 14's financial backer, Robert Klein, said that money has lead to significant medical breakthroughs.

But now, CIRM is almost out of money, and Proposition 14 asks voters for $5.5 more for stem cell research.

"If 70 different patient advocacy organizations, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the American Diabetes Foundation and the American Association of Cancer Researchers all endorse us -- could they all be wrong?" Klein asked.

Longtime AIDS activist Jeff Sheehy is on the CIRM board and said residents are still paying $325 million a year for Proposition 71.

"We're going to add another $300 million on top of that -- that's two-thirds of $1 billion for stem cell research," Sheehy said. "We don't have a single FDA approved product yet."

Sheehy said taxpayer funding of stem cell research was needed back in 2004 when California was on its own, but now the feds and private industry are spending billions on it every year.

"So we're just duplicating," Sheehy said.

Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, opposes Proposition 14 because of CIRM's quote "Shameless overpromising and hype set the stage for hundreds of underregulated commercial stem cell clinics now offering unapproved treatments that have caused tumors and blindness."

"All those people who survive COVID-19, they are finding up to 50% have heart damage and other organ damage," Darnovsky said. "How are you going to regenerate those tissues? Regenerative medicine is still cell therapy."

Dr. Michael Matthay professor of critical care medicine at UCSF, said CIRM has provided grant money to help research COVID-19 treatments.

"We are using cell based therapy to reduce injury to longs from COVID-19 and to accelerate the recovery process," Matthay said.

It should be pointed out everyone interviewed for this story are in favor of stem cell research -- Darnovsky and Sheehy believe that the billions of dollars being asked of taxpayers could be better spent on education, healthcare, housing and jobs.

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