March 24, 2009
Senator Watson released the following statement regarding the Article IX Rider approved in the Senate Finance Committee meeting yesterday affecting stem-cell research in Texas:
The fates of Texas workers, scientists, patients and families were thrown into limbo late Monday when the Senate Finance Committee, with no notice or discussion, slipped an obscure provision into the state budget that would ban nearly all embryonic stem cell research in Texas.
Given the lack of discussion, it’s unclear whether the committee intended to institute such a sweeping ban. But the wording of this action plainly forbids state money from being used “in conjunction with or to support” this vital pursuit. That means it would effectively bar some of Texas’ top researchers from the state’s universities and laboratories, where most of this work in the state is currently taking place.
It goes far beyond the restrictions imposed by former President George W. Bush that Texas researchers have honored, and it slams the door shut on legitimate research that was being pursued under current law.
As written, this measure undermines promising industries just when the economy needs them the most. It drives away some of our best and brightest people even as we struggle to attract more like them. And it would all but guarantee that cures for our stricken neighbors and loved ones won’t be discovered in Texas – if they’re discovered at all.
A study by Dr. Bernard Weinstein and Dr. Terry Clower, both of the University of North Texas, found that embryonic stem cell research “is a critical component of the life sciences and the study of diseases” in the state, which in turn are essential industries for the Texas economy. Failing to keep pace with the world in this area, the study found, could cost Texas more than 100,000 jobs alone by 2014.
“If Texas is to be a leader in the biosciences, with all the anticipated health and economic benefits that will follow, we must create a hospitable environment for research and development,” the study found. “At a minimum, Texas needs to be known as a ‘safe harbor’ for regenerative medical research, including embryonic stem cell research.”
Instead, with Monday’s decision, Texas is shoved in the opposite direction.
This action dodged an open debate and a heads-up vote, instead all but secretly writing this provision into the state budget – the one bill that the legislature must legally pass every two years. This denies Texans on both sides the right to study this critical question.
It plunges Texas into the past at the very moment that other states are racing toward a more prosperous future.
This provision must be removed from the budget, and there will be opportunities to do so in coming months. I will work with my colleagues to reverse this decision so we can debate this issue in the Senate, where it belongs.