HIGH NOON FOR PARALYSIS CURE RESEARCH?
By Don C. Reed
Three twenty-two AM.
Couple hours from now, and I will go to my son Roman’s house. His 13-year-old son (Roman part two) has a baseball tournament in Temecula, so he and mom Terri are driving down as well as Kate my two year-old angel, certifiably most beautiful grand-daughter in the history of the world. (This must be true, as that fact is recorded in the official documents of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, because I announced it in the public comment portion of the meeting).
Roman senior and Jason (age six and with a school schedule plus Tae Quan Do practice) won’t be going.
So Gloria will drop Jason off at school and I will help Roman get out of bed.
And then we will drive to Sacramento to fight paralysis.
Remember the classic Gary Cooper movie, where the bad guy and his evil buddies are coming to kill the good guy at 12:00 noon?
Twelve o’clock is when the Appropriations Committee hearing on Assembly Bill 190 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) will decide if California will add on a small fine for traffic violations.
In the Gary Cooper movie, nobody helped the Sheriff, who stood alone. (At the very last minute, his Quaker girlfriend blew away the bad guy, but she was the only one.)
That is so NOT what happened with us.
Ever since the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act began, we have been helped not only by the disability, medical, and research community—but also by and the California political system itself—both sides of the aisle.
Now, I am proud to be a Democrat, and will be one till my dying day. I will trashtalk GOP policy till the cows come home, explaining in great detail why Pelosi is right and Boehner is wrong.
But not this day.
Because I remember two key votes on the renewal of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, in which we got every vote except one in the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. (One person, Tom Campbell, voted against the RR Act in 1994, other than that, we got everybody’s vote.)
Think of that. Every Republican, every Democrat. I remember the great Democrat John Burton, who fought so eloquently for us on the Senate Floor– and I also reember Sam Aanestadt, (R-Grass Valley) who supported us way back when—and suggested we should be part of the UC system, which we are.
(I hasten to add that when I say “our law”, I mean that in the same way we say “our” America. There is a private foundation, the Roman Reed Foundation, which is basically Roman puts on golf tournaments and contributes every penny to research, primarily the Stanford Partnership for Spinal Cord Injury and repair. That has nothing to do with the State program.)
Our law was occasionally controversial– before Prop 71 made California the stem cell center of the world, Roman’s law funded the first use of the Bush Presidentially-approved embryonic stem cells– but when push came to shove, it was still approved by both sides of the aisle.
That’s why, when I see that beautiful Sacramento capitol building, there is always a moment when I feel like taking off my hat (if I had one) and saluting.
If we pass the committee today, we have a week to rally the entire assembly before the vote, and then we begin again on the Senate side.
And if we do not pass the committee?
First, I will go for ice cream. I found this wonderful gelato place on 10th street across from the Capitol, and they have spumoni like no other—swathes of chocolate fudge and just jammed with chunks of candied fruit and nuts—heaven in a dish.
There are three sizes; I will be getting the large one, which should come with its own wheelbarrow, there is so much.
I will stuff myself, gain a couple pounds- and get ready for next year.
Because whatever happens today, thumbs up or thumbs down, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act will go on.
The Roman Reed Act will never die. It exists now, voted into law in perpetuity.
There is just no money for it right now, in Sacramento. The UC system can and will fight for it, trying to find a little bit of money to keep it going, but that will be tough, considering they have cut to the bone.
Patient advocates and progressives in both parties will find a way to fund it. We asked for $3 a ticket, and if that is too much, we will take less—we have made clear we will walk back our request even to just a single dollar a ticket.
And if I have to come back next year and try again, just asking for fifty cents a ticket—I will do that, if that’s what it takes.
Think of that—pocket change. What can you buy for a handful of pennies?
Maybe, paralysis cure?
That negligible fine increase would mean almost nothing to the violator, zero cost to the taxpayer—but it could mean everything to families with a paralyzed member.
So, think good thoughts for us today, at shining noon in Sacramento. I hope and expect that I will have good news to report to you next time.
But whatever happens, we will continue.
If we never give up, we can only win, or die. And everybody dies, so why not try?