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Legislative Update - SB 210 and HB 355
AUTHOR: Melanie Elsey
November 17 2005

SUMMARY

11/16/05 Interesting day (yesterday) in Columbus...

Summary of legislative events regarding human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning - Sub. H.B. 355 and Sub. S.B. 210

Both bills received committee hearings in the respective chambers. S.B. 210 was voted out of committee and approved on the Senate floor. H.B. 355 received no committee action.

Summary of bills [texts are now available on the state's website]:

SB 210 [introduced 10/20], sponsor Senator Jim Jordan cosponsors Senators Wachtmann, Cates, Padgett, Hottinger, Harris, Mumper, Clancy Niehaus 11/15/05 Passed Senate Finance Committee [10-3] 11/15/05 Passed full Senate [21-11] When the Senate Journal is available, I will post the vote record.

NOTE: To his credit, Senator Tim Grendell voted against SB210 (out of sync with other Republicans) because of its dependence on the use of the federal stem cell registry. His position is actually a stronger prolife position than the limited restrictions in the bill.

SB 210 text

* Bans state funding of research on human cloning.

* Creates an exemption to ban on state funding for cloning human tissue (not embryos), which is not a controversial practice.

* Silent on banning human cloning with other funding sources, which ALLOWS the practice of human cloning research (including the experimental creation of cloned human embryos) to move forward in Ohio -- with other funding sources.

* Bans state funding of research using human embryonic tissue.

* Creates an exemption for human embryonic stem cell research using cell lines in the federal registry (See note below.) Allowing use of the federal lines sanctions research and commercial profit on human embryos that have been destroyed.

* Silent on banning human embryonic stem cell research with other funding sources, which ALLOWS human embryonic stem cell research (and the destruction of human embryos) to move forward in Ohio.

NOTE: SB210, Sec. 131.51(B)(1) ALLOWS for stem cell research with human embryonic tissue IF the research "INVOLVES embryonic stem cells listed on the "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry"... Technically this means a TOTAL OPEN DOOR to state funding on embryonic stem cell research as long as the research simply includes one or more cells from the federal registry.

HB 355 [introduced 9/27.05] sponsor State Rep. Mike Gilb cosponsors State Representatives Buhp, Buehrer, Collier, Faber, Hood, Law, McGregor, Raga, Raussen, Schaffer, Setzer, Trakas, Uecker, White, Widener, and Willamowski 10/13/05 passed House Judiciary Committee 10/25/05 referred back to Judiciary for clarifying amendments 11/10/05 Judiciary accepted the amendments, but the bill (as amended) did not receive a vote at that time 11/15/05 Judiciary committee met, further testimony was received, NO committee vote was taken

HB 355 was expected to be approved by the Judiciary Committee and placed on the House calendar for a vote today. This will not happen, since no committee vote was taken. At this point, HB 355 is technically still pending in committee, but more likely is permanently stalled. Here's why... Rep. Gilb (sponsor of HB355) was approached (prior to the 1:30 hearing) and asked to support a change to HB 355 that would permit (unrestricted) therapeutic cloning research, which would include pursuing research to create human embryos with the sole purpose of destruction of the embryo. TO HIS CREDIT Rep. Gilb refused to support the change (which is a decision to pursue state policy to protect life).

HB 355 text

This online text is the version passed out of committee on Oct. 13th. It does not include the amendments from Nov. 10th. If you want to see the current version, let me know and I will send you an attached pdf file.

* Bans the practice of human cloning research in Ohio, not just the funds.

* Creates an exemption for research leading to the cloning of tissue or organs that does not result in the destruction of an embryo, which is not a controversial practice.

* Bans state funding of research using human embryonic tissue.

* Creates an exemption for human embryonic stem cell research using cell lines in the federal registry. This use of the federal lines sanctions research and commercial profit on human embryos that have been destroyed.

* Silent on banning human embryonic stem cell research with other funding sources, which ALLOWS human embryonic stem cell research (and the destruction of human embryos) to move forward in Ohio.

BOTTOM LINE * Both bills are problematic in the sense that they place into state law for the first time a policy that endorses human embryonic stem cell research -- even on a limited basis the "statutory barn door" would be open.

* SB 210 is WORSE because it would allow unrestricted research on human cloning with private/corporate funding sources.

* SB 210 is WORSE because it would allow for unrestricted research with human embryos due to the poor construction of the language mentioned above.

* Governor Taft will NOT approve any legislative policy that goes beyond the scope of SB210 because it mirrors his August 2005 executive order. The legislature might possibly have the political will to enact stronger prolife legislation if we had a governor who had a stronger position on protecting life. Remember he VETOED stronger ESCR language in June.

* The involvement of Ohio Right to Life of this issue has become very problematic. They encouraged the passage of SB 210 yesterday (a take what we can get perspective).

* The political strategy of "take what we can get because we can't do any better with Gov. Taft" does a long term disservice to the prolife perspective. Ohioans would be better served to put the correct policy in place once Gov. Taft's term is expired. Otherwise legislators will not want to "revisit" the issue.

* Citizens need to become educated on this issue in order to communicate effectively with their legislators AND candidates seeking office in the spring primary elections.

ACTION: Please consider contacting your State Representative and ask him/her to vote NO on SB210 -- IF it reaches the House floor. At this time the next House session is scheduled for next month. If this timeline is expedited, you will receive an update.