California Pioneers Bills on Stem Cell Research, Paid Family Leave

In a move aimed to counter the Bush administration’s efforts to hamper stem cell research, Governor Gray Davis plans to sign a bill that will promote stem cell research in the state of California. Davis plans to send a letter to more than 10,000 scientists inviting them to submit research proposals to the state and may also consider using state money and universities for stem cell research.

Christopher Reeves, whose paralysis from a horseback riding accident is one of many afflictions that could see enormous gains from stem cell research, will join Davis at a press conference today to support the bill – the first of its kind in the nation.

While stem cell research is legal in the US, Bush has limited federal funding for stem cell research to six-dozen existing stem cell lines. Many researchers fear an eventual across-the-board federal ban on stem cell research based on pressure from anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Church.

In another move to protect and expand women’s rights in California, Governor Gray Davis plans to sign into law a bill that grants most California workers up to six weeks of paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child, as well as to care for a sick family member.

However, with the business lobby opposing employers being charged with any of the paid leave, funding is taken entirely out of workers’ paychecks, which works out to about $26 per person per year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

California is the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive paid family leave plan -five states offer a form of paid leave called temporary disability insurance and at least 24 states allow public employees to use sick leave to care for sick family members, while three states require private employers to do so for their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The United States is one of few developed nations that does not offer some form of paid parental leave – the US enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993, which requires unpaid leave for workers. Approximately 127 countries offer compensation to parents, while many others have passed similar laws to compensate workers who need time off because of family emergencies. “We as a nation love to talk about ourselves as a family-friendly nation, but when it comes to having the policies in place to live up to that we often fall short,” Judith Lichtman, president of the National Partnership, told the Times.


Washington Post 9/22/02; Los Angeles Times 9/22/02, 9/23/02

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