- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Maryland Senate is facing a showdown over stem-cell research, with Republicans and a few Democrats vowing yesterday to stop a bill that would promote the creation of embryos for research.

“If [Senate President Thomas V. Mike] Miller wants to do this extraordinary thing, he will get a filibuster that lasts as long as he wants it to last,” said Senate Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore County Republican.

Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus said he had more than the minimum 19 votes to filibuster.

“We think we have 20,” said Mr. Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican. “We support stem-cell research. We just don’t support embryonic. We don’t believe in killing a baby, and that’s what we believe embryos are.”

There are 14 Republicans in the 47-member Senate, which means six Democrats have agreed to filibuster.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, Baltimore County Democrat, is sponsoring the Senate bill in support of embryonic stem-cell research for the second year and supports the House version, sponsored by Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore City Democrat.

Mrs. Hollinger wants a Senate vote as early as next week — the fourth week of the 90-day General Assembly session.

“I’m sure they will filibuster, and I’m sure we will round up the votes,” she said.

Mrs. Hollinger also said she would fight for the bill and against the filibuster for “as long as it takes.”

Her bill would give $25 million a year for five years, starting in fiscal 2008, to embryonic stem-cell research.

The bill also allows the legislature to appoint a committee of scientists and representatives from business and biotechnology industries to award grants through the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Some scientists hope embryonic stem cells will eventually produce cures and treatments for such chronic and degenerative illnesses as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

Opponents of the research say there have been no proven results that embryos can yield positive results, while adult and umbilical cord stem cells are now used to treat 65 medical conditions.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, announced his proposal to fund stem-cell research on Jan. 11, the second day of the session.

President Bush in 2001 restricted the use of embryos for federal stem-cell research. So scientists who want to conduct such research are looking to state governments for funding.

Mr. Ehrlich’s plan would provide $20 million for one year toward stem-cell research, with no specifics on whether the money would fund embryonic stem-cell research or only research using adult stem cells and stem cells from umbilical cords.

Mr. Ehrlich’s plan also would allow a committee of scientists, business representatives and biotechnology representatives to make the decisions on where the funding goes.

However, the committee in the governor’s proposal would be selected by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, created in 1998 by the state legislature.

The committee is governed by a 15-member board, appointed by the governor with advice and consent of the Senate, according to its Web site.

“Mr. Ehrlich’s proposal depoliticizes the situation,” said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the governor. He also said Democratic lawmakers are publicly saying what are the best scientific decisions, but “they need to stay out of that and let the scientists decide.”

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