With the signature verification deadline on June 25, the eighth citizen-initiated measure has qualified for the ballot in California. On June 22, the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that enough signatures had been collected for a ballot initiative to fund the state’s stem cell research institute with a $5.5 billion general obligation bond.
In 2004, voters approved Proposition 71, which created the institute, which is known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM); issued $3.00 billion in bonds to finance CIRM; and established a state constitutional right to conduct stem cell research. As of October 2019, CIRM had $132 million in funds remaining. On July 1, 2019, CIRM suspended applications for new projects due to depleted funds.
Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments & Cures is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. Through June 22, the campaign had raised $2.07 million, with Robert N. Klein II providing $4.63 million of that total. Klein is chairperson of the campaign, and he was the chairperson of the campaign behind Proposition 71 in 2004. Klein also served as the first chair of the committee that governs CIRM. Klein is a real estate investor who cites his son’s Type 1 diabetes as one reason for his involvement in stem cell research.
Besides issuing a $5.5 billion grant for CIRM, the ballot initiative would also make changes to the institute’s structure, in part to provide more resources related to treatment access. CIRM has three working groups that advise the governing committee, one each for medical research funding, research standards, and facilities grants. The ballot initiative would create a fourth working group, which would focus on improving access to treatments and cures.
Californians last voted on a bond measure at the election on March 3, 2020. Proposition 13 would have issued $15 billion for school and college facilities, but 53 percent of voters rejected the proposal. Since 1993, voters have rejected 12 of 44 (27.3 percent) bond issues on the statewide ballot in California. Most of the bond measures (36 of 44) were legislative referrals. The remaining eight were citizen-initiated measures. Voters approved 75 percent of the legislature’s bond measures and 62.5 percent of citizen-initiated bond measures.
Unless the California State Legislature passes a bond measure for the general election ballot before June 25, which is the deadline to refer ballot measures, the stem cell bond ballot initiative will be the only bond issue on the California ballot in November.