November 3, SAN FRANCISCO--Californians have approved a $3 billion bond measure that represents a rejection of Bush administration policy and will put the state on the forefront of stem cell research. "It makes me feel great for our daughter and all the people in the state who are looking for a potential cure," said Janet Zucker, a movie producer and campaign organizer whose teenage daughter suffers from diabetes. "Help is on the way." The campaign was fueled by more than $25 million in contributions from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, billionaire executives like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founders, and wealthy parents of sick children. Proponents said the California measure was needed because the Bush administration had severely restricted funding of human embryonic stem cell research to about $25 million a year, slowing progress in the field. The opposition raised about $400,000, with nearly half coming from Howard Ahmanson Jr., a millionaire evangelical Christian. The measure, called Proposition 71, was popular across all ages, races, incomes and levels of education, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The proposition was among the most rancorous issues on the state ballot this year, and served as fodder in the campaign for president while raising a host of religious, economic and medical concerns. The bond issue will cost California, already deeply indebted, a total of $6 billion in principal and interest. But supporters said the funding of research would stimulate the state's economy. The measure creates the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will distribute nearly $300 million annually for 10 years starting in 2005. Many scientists believe stem cells hold vast promise for treating an array of diseases from diabetes to Parkinson's. Stem cells can potentially grow into any type of human tissue and scientists hope to be able to direct the blank cells to grow into specific cell types needed for transplant. But even the most enthusiastic supporters acknowledge that such results are many years away.
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