Stem-cell research bill sent to governor

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RICHMOND — The House yesterday passed a bill that would create a stem-cell research fund in memory of actor Christopher Reeve.

The measure, which does not apply to embryonic stem-cell research, passed on a 76-22 vote with no debate.

The Senate has approved the legislation, and it will now go to Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, for consideration.

Under the measure, the “Christopher Reeve Stem Cell Research Fund” would be created and would pay for Virginia college research on ailments such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., Winchester Republican. No money would go to fund embryonic stem-cell research, which pro-life groups oppose.

The fund will consist of gifts, grants and donations from public or private sources. It will be managed by the Commonwealth Health Research Board.

Mr. Reeve died in October after having been paralyzed in a horse riding accident in Virginia in 1995.

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A tug of war has begun between House and Senate budget negotiators who must agree on how to spend a $1.2 billion budget surplus when crafting amendments to the state budget.

The 11 delegates and senators negotiating the spending plan did not meet their midnight deadline last night, and have just two more days to hammer out the final details. The negotiators spent most of last night sending each other messages. At dinnertime, most had not met face to face.

All but one of the House negotiators went to dinner and did not come back for the evening.

The main sticking point is how much to spend on transportation and whether to end the accelerated sales tax procedure.

Several lawmakers have said privately that they think it will be difficult to reach an agreement before the scheduled adjournment Saturday.

Most in the House want to adjourn on time or earlier, particularly because the legislature spent an unprecedented 115 days fighting over tax increases last year.

House Appropriations Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr. said he was frustrated because the Senate is “holding firm” on $347 million in general fund spending for transportation. The House wants to spend $393 million in general fund dollars for transportation.

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