Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill on Monday that would make $23 million a year available for stem cell research beginning in 2007. The large margin in the house vote, which passed by a margin of 81-53, has given Maryland legislators hope that the momentum will carry over to the state’s senate vote. “Maryland simply cannot be left behind,” House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D) told the Washington Post. However, Republicans and conservative Democrats in the state senate have threatened to filibuster the measure if it reaches the floor in the two weeks remaining in the legislative session according to the Washington Post.
Limits placed on federal funding for stem cell research by the Bush Administration in 2001 and the recent revelation that all existing stem cell lines are contaminated heightens the need for state funded research. Proposition 71, passed by California voters last November, provides for state funding of $295 million a year for stem cell research over the next ten years.
A bipartisan group of 156 US Senators and Representatives introduced bills in the House and Senate in February aimed at loosening Bush’s restrictions limiting federal funding to research that uses stem cells that existed before his policy. Although the bill has the backing of some influential conservatives such as the ardently anti-abortion Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House leadership is opposed to the bill and may not bring it to the floor
Scientists believe that treatments using stem cells on people with spinal cord injuries are only a year-and-a-half away, and that clinical trials using stem cell research for heart failure and diabetes are only a few years away.