One Small Committee

One Small Committee

ONE SMALL COMMITTEE, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND:  Cure Research Bill Advances!

By Don C. Reed

April 26, 2011. 9:30 AM.  Sacramento Capitol. Room 126. Public Safety Committee

Roman Reed, Karen Miner, Mandy Miner, Bill Leeds, myself, and other friends of the research for cure struggle sat together in the jam-packed meeting room.

We were there to fight for a bill (AB 190: Wieckowski, D-Fremont) to fund the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act.

We would sit there most of the day. There were so many bills the legislators did not allow themselves a lunch recess. They just sat and worked and worked, and every so often somebody would get up and go to the bathroom, and then come back and work some more.

Every bill was vital to the people involved.

There were five Democrats on the committee, and two Republicans, vice chair Steve Knight and Assemblyman Curt Hagman. The GOP members voted as a bloc; if they disagreed, I missed it.

But though the gap between the two parties was sharp and clear, the courtesy was always there.

That was important.  I had visited all the committee members’ offices several times apiece, and was always treated with courtesy.

Republican Vice Chair Knight’s legislative aide Heidi Jensen gave me a full half-hour of her time—which was above and beyond, when you think about it—because she probably knew all along that her leader would not support us.

I had a special reason to visit Ms. Jensen’s office the day before, and that was that a mistake had been made. We lost our old friend (he’s fine, just moved to a different job) legislative aide Ryan Spencer, the muscular power lifter (he holds an American record in weightlifting, a 705 deadlift), and during the transition a language error cropped up.

As I was re-reading the bill a couple days before the hearing, I found something shocking—most bills contain an “opt-out” provision, so that if a city or county objects strongly to a bill, they can choose not to participate. Our bill was just the opposite! It had language which amounted to an “opt-in” which would have been disastrous. To participate, cities and counties would have to pass special legislation—this would make it almost impossible to get any funding for the research.

The way the bill was written, Karen and Roman and I would have to approach each of California’s 58 counties, and request the opportunity to speak on behalf of the bill. It would be like fighting for a bill’s passage—58 times.  

But, if we had to do it, we would. And maybe this could help gain Republican support? So I called up both the legislative aides, and told them about it, and both seemed interested.

But—it turned out to have been a typographical error.   

So, the day before the vote, I visited the offices of Republicans Knight and Hagman.

Assemblyman Hagman’s aide (capitol director Victoria Stewart) was not available, this being crunch time at the Capitol, so I explained the mistake to the Secretary, who promised to pass it along.

I was able to catch Ms. Jensen, Vice-chair Knight’s aide, and I told her about the opt-out/opt-in situation.

She nodded, but then added that her leader would probably not be able to support us.

Stem cell issue?

Yes, she said.

I explained that while we had funded stem cell research, (four with Bush-approved embryonic stem cell lines, five with adult stem cells) that was only 9 out of 181 projects—and none since 2008.

I support stem cell research, no question. I do not see the microscopic dots-in-a-dish-of-salt water as human beings. They are never in a womb, how can they become children?  

But even for a person opposed to stem cell research, the Roman Reed program should not offend. We focus primarily on all the other issues that must be dealt with for cure to happen, in addition to regenerative factors. We are the “everything else” part of the picture. Our 175 published research papers are like a library of what works and what doesn’t. Each experiment is a piece of the puzzle of cure.

She smiled, but shook her head.

Curt Hagman’s aide, Ms. Stuart, was polite, nothing more. She listened, nodded in acknowledgement of my arguments, and gave me no slightest hint of encouragement. No hopes there.

Honorable opponents, Hagman and Knight: but they would not support us.

So five Democrats, no problem, right?

Not necessarily.

Every Democrat in Sacramento is between a rock and a hard place right now.

They are in office because they want to help people—but they cannot raise taxes. If California was on fire, taxes could not be raised to buy fire hoses. This is because of Proposition 13’s  requirement of a 2/3  majority for any tax increases at all,  and the Republican pledge of no new taxes, ever.

Committee Chair Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is one of the most progressive forces in California politics. But he objects to funding government programs by fees, which unfairly burden the poor.

But our funding mechanism was not a fee (which hits everybody), but a fine  which affects only violators.  We pointed out that spinal cord injury is often caused by car crash—but despite repeated visits with aides Curtis Notsinneh and Misa Yokoi-Shelton, we knew he still had reservations.

So would he vote against us? So highly respected is the chair, that one of the other votes we depended on (doesn’t matter which one) told us:  if Ammiano said no, that was  it.

We had to hold 4 votes: Skinner, Mitchell, Hill, and Cedillo. If we lost just one, the bill was dead.

I watched them in action as the day wore on. It occurred to me I knew them mainly through their aides. I hope they won’t mind if I at least mention a couple of their names, these individuals who work so hard behind the scenes.

Gilbert Cedillo, Hispanic intellectual, asked penetrating questions all day long. His aide was Luis Dario Quinonez, and like the man he worked for, he asked questions which showed he knew the legislation inside and out.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner reminded me of Karen Miner, the wheelchair warrior who has been with our effort since it began. Both women are wisp-thin and elegant, physically like a breath of wind would knock them over—but a hurricane would not shake their convictions. Aide: Sandra Trevino.

Holly Mitchell is an African-American lady with a ferocious scowl—she reminded me of the teacher nobody would give trouble to—but when she smiled it warmed the room. A person would know exactly there they stood with Ms. Mitchell. Aide: Tiffany Jones

And Jerry Hill. A champion of biomedicine, and again with the same philosophical objections to our funding mechanism. His aide, Gibran Maciel, was visibly torn on the issue. He asked, could we win without his leader’s vote, and I said no—he punched his fist into his hand and walked around the room.

And so we waited, sitting through dozens of bills. I used the bathroom three times.

One of the bills was about immigrant rights. I perked up at that. Half of America used to be Mexico before the dividing line was moved, and we are all immigrants anyway, or descendants from them.

 There was a long line of witnesses, people only allowed to state name and position (each bill was allowed only two speaking witnesses, two minutes each) and I found myself  joining the line.

“My name is Don Reed, and I am married to an Hispanic woman who would shoot me if I did not support this bill,” I said, and then sat back down.

Roman looked at me, nodded, and then went and did the same, in honor of his Hispanic-American Mom.

And then at last it was our turn.

To my delight, the California Health Institute  (CHI) sent their representative, Scott Allen! CHI represents California’s emerging biomedical industry. Their leader is Dr. David Gollaher, and the Sacramento office is chaired by Consuelo Hernandez, and I have knocked on their doors many times over the years, asking for assistance, and they always try to help. But I knew they had a major legislative challenge that day,  and did not expect them to be able to attend.

Roman spoke, and for some reason, he completely left the speech he had prepared. Roman and I of course compare notes when writing our speeches so we don’t overlap, and I thought I knew what he was going to say, but no, not at all.

He talked about the children affected by paralysis. His two minutes were emotional and gut-wrenching.

When it was my turn I talked about the money that would be lost to our state, if our bill did not go forward. I mentioned that we had spent $14.6 million of California tax dollars—but attracted $63.8 million in funds from Washington, new money for the state.

But I cut myself off early, only using 60 seconds, so that the CHI representative would be able to speak—and he did, clear and strong, saying how biomedicine sprang from the seeds research planted.

We listened to the opposition. One person spoke from a group (I think) called California Public Defenders, and her main point was about traffic ticket add-ons as not a good way to fund government, a legitimate concern, but one which everyone had already considered in depth. No good change happens without a cost; if we can cure paralysis with money from bad drivers, it will be different, but good.

But the main opposition came from the Religious Right. A well-dressed individual,  maybe 25, eloquent, very sure of himself,  he started off talking about how government often makes programs just because it likes to make programs, and then he got into the embryonic vs. adult stem cell research debate.

He said his piece, and I endured it. I just kept my hands on the desk and looked straight ahead. I am sure it was as difficult for my opponent to have to listen to my words as it was for me to listen to his—that’s democracy—but Roman was not so calm. I listened to the sounds of his breathing, and knew he was just boiling mad, hearing the opposition talk about our bill and trash-talking the research.

Recently an article came out from the religious right which stated that the money from AB 190 would go to the Roman Reed Foundation—completely wrong. The Roman Reed Foundation is a private entity, with no connection to AB 190.

I wrote to the website which ran the piece and pointed out the error—and the next piece that came out did not contain that mistake.

I appreciate that. Democracy is a fragile thing, beautiful but breakable. If opposite sides can maintain a modicum of care and courtesy, that leaves the door open to someday work together.

When the opposition concluded, our legislative champion,  Fremont’s Bob Wieckowski, responded. Bob is new on the job and I had no idea how he would be under the pressure of committee hearings.

But he responded with a cheerful clarity that acknowledged the objections raised by our opposition, and dealt with them. He had earlier spoken from prepared text, and the caring nature of the man came through.

He made me proud to be a Democrat.

And now there was nothing left: only the vote, up or down, yes, or no.

Chairman Ammiano (D)—abstained. (This was a gift—he did not try to tell the others how to vote!)

Hagman (R) –no.

Knight (R)-no

Skinner (D)—yes

Mitchell (D)-yes

Cedillo (D)-yes

Hill (D) — yes

We had it, had the four votes we needed!

AB 190 was passed by the Committee on a 4-2 official vote.

Roman and Karen and Bill Leeds and I went outside and were happy.

And Roman said: “all the help we got, the thousands of emails back and forth, people all up and down the state and across the country in support—how are we going to thank all those people?”

To which Karen responded:

“Just pass the bill, that’s what matters.”

Now we move on to Appropriations.

Stay tuned, dear friends of research for cure.

 

 

 

ONE SMALL COMMITTEE, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND:  Cure Research Bill Advances!

By Don C. Reed

April 26, 2011. 9:30 AM.  Sacramento Capitol. Room 126. Public Safety Committee

Roman Reed, Karen Miner, Mandy Miner, Bill Leeds, myself, and other friends of the research for cure struggle sat together in the jam-packed meeting room.

We were there to fight for a bill (AB 190: Wieckowski, D-Fremont) to fund the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act.

We would sit there most of the day. There were so many bills the legislators did not allow themselves a lunch recess. They just sat and worked and worked, and every so often somebody would get up and go to the bathroom, and then come back and work some more.

Every bill was vital to the people involved.

There were five Democrats on the committee, and two Republicans, vice chair Steve Knight and Assemblyman Curt Hagman. The GOP members voted as a bloc; if they disagreed, I missed it.

But though the gap between the two parties was sharp and clear, the courtesy was always there.

That was important.  I had visited all the committee members’ offices several times apiece, and was always treated with courtesy.

Republican Vice Chair Knight’s legislative aide Heidi Jensen gave me a full half-hour of her time—which was above and beyond, when you think about it—because she probably knew all along that her leader would not support us.

I had a special reason to visit Ms. Jensen’s office the day before, and that was that a mistake had been made. We lost our old friend (he’s fine, just moved to a different job) legislative aide Ryan Spencer, the muscular power lifter (he holds an American record in weightlifting, a 705 deadlift), and during the transition a language error cropped up.

As I was re-reading the bill a couple days before the hearing, I found something shocking—most bills contain an “opt-out” provision, so that if a city or county objects strongly to a bill, they can choose not to participate. Our bill was just the opposite! It had language which amounted to an “opt-in” which would have been disastrous. To participate, cities and counties would have to pass special legislation—this would make it almost impossible to get any funding for the research.

The way the bill was written, Karen and Roman and I would have to approach each of California’s 58 counties, and request the opportunity to speak on behalf of the bill. It would be like fighting for a bill’s passage—58 times.  

But, if we had to do it, we would. And maybe this could help gain Republican support? So I called up both the legislative aides, and told them about it, and both seemed interested.

But—it turned out to have been a typographical error.   

So, the day before the vote, I visited the offices of Republicans Knight and Hagman.

Assemblyman Hagman’s aide (capitol director Victoria Stewart) was not available, this being crunch time at the Capitol, so I explained the mistake to the Secretary, who promised to pass it along.

I was able to catch Ms. Jensen, Vice-chair Knight’s aide, and I told her about the opt-out/opt-in situation.

She nodded, but then added that her leader would probably not be able to support us.

Stem cell issue?

Yes, she said.

I explained that while we had funded stem cell research, (four with Bush-approved embryonic stem cell lines, five with adult stem cells) that was only 9 out of 181 projects—and none since 2008.

I support stem cell research, no question. I do not see the microscopic dots-in-a-dish-of-salt water as human beings. They are never in a womb, how can they become children?  

But even for a person opposed to stem cell research, the Roman Reed program should not offend. We focus primarily on all the other issues that must be dealt with for cure to happen, in addition to regenerative factors. We are the “everything else” part of the picture. Our 175 published research papers are like a library of what works and what doesn’t. Each experiment is a piece of the puzzle of cure.

She smiled, but shook her head.

Curt Hagman’s aide, Ms. Stuart, was polite, nothing more. She listened, nodded in acknowledgement of my arguments, and gave me no slightest hint of encouragement. No hopes there.

Honorable opponents, Hagman and Knight: but they would not support us.

So five Democrats, no problem, right?

Not necessarily.

Every Democrat in Sacramento is between a rock and a hard place right now.

They are in office because they want to help people—but they cannot raise taxes. If California was on fire, taxes could not be raised to buy fire hoses. This is because of Proposition 13’s  requirement of a 2/3  majority for any tax increases at all,  and the Republican pledge of no new taxes, ever.

Committee Chair Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is one of the most progressive forces in California politics. But he objects to funding government programs by fees, which unfairly burden the poor.

But our funding mechanism was not a fee (which hits everybody), but a fine  which affects only violators.  We pointed out that spinal cord injury is often caused by car crash—but despite repeated visits with aides Curtis Notsinneh and Misa Yokoi-Shelton, we knew he still had reservations.

So would he vote against us? So highly respected is the chair, that one of the other votes we depended on (doesn’t matter which one) told us:  if Ammiano said no, that was  it.

We had to hold 4 votes: Skinner, Mitchell, Hill, and Cedillo. If we lost just one, the bill was dead.

I watched them in action as the day wore on. It occurred to me I knew them mainly through their aides. I hope they won’t mind if I at least mention a couple of their names, these individuals who work so hard behind the scenes.

Gilbert Cedillo, Hispanic intellectual, asked penetrating questions all day long. His aide was Luis Dario Quinonez, and like the man he worked for, he asked questions which showed he knew the legislation inside and out.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner reminded me of Karen Miner, the wheelchair warrior who has been with our effort since it began. Both women are wisp-thin and elegant, physically like a breath of wind would knock them over—but a hurricane would not shake their convictions. Aide: Sandra Trevino.

Holly Mitchell is an African-American lady with a ferocious scowl—she reminded me of the teacher nobody would give trouble to—but when she smiled it warmed the room. A person would know exactly there they stood with Ms. Mitchell. Aide: Tiffany Jones

And Jerry Hill. A champion of biomedicine, and again with the same philosophical objections to our funding mechanism. His aide, Gibran Maciel, was visibly torn on the issue. He asked, could we win without his leader’s vote, and I said no—he punched his fist into his hand and walked around the room.

And so we waited, sitting through dozens of bills. I used the bathroom three times.

One of the bills was about immigrant rights. I perked up at that. Half of America used to be Mexico before the dividing line was moved, and we are all immigrants anyway, or descendants from them.

 There was a long line of witnesses, people only allowed to state name and position (each bill was allowed only two speaking witnesses, two minutes each) and I found myself  joining the line.

“My name is Don Reed, and I am married to an Hispanic woman who would shoot me if I did not support this bill,” I said, and then sat back down.

Roman looked at me, nodded, and then went and did the same, in honor of his Hispanic-American Mom.

And then at last it was our turn.

To my delight, the California Health Institute  (CHI) sent their representative, Scott Allen! CHI represents California’s emerging biomedical industry. Their leader is Dr. David Gollaher, and the Sacramento office is chaired by Consuelo Hernandez, and I have knocked on their doors many times over the years, asking for assistance, and they always try to help. But I knew they had a major legislative challenge that day,  and did not expect them to be able to attend.

Roman spoke, and for some reason, he completely left the speech he had prepared. Roman and I of course compare notes when writing our speeches so we don’t overlap, and I thought I knew what he was going to say, but no, not at all.

He talked about the children affected by paralysis. His two minutes were emotional and gut-wrenching.

When it was my turn I talked about the money that would be lost to our state, if our bill did not go forward. I mentioned that we had spent $14.6 million of California tax dollars—but attracted $63.8 million in funds from Washington, new money for the state.

But I cut myself off early, only using 60 seconds, so that the CHI representative would be able to speak—and he did, clear and strong, saying how biomedicine sprang from the seeds research planted.

We listened to the opposition. One person spoke from a group (I think) called California Public Defenders, and her main point was about traffic ticket add-ons as not a good way to fund government, a legitimate concern, but one which everyone had already considered in depth. No good change happens without a cost; if we can cure paralysis with money from bad drivers, it will be different, but good.

But the main opposition came from the Religious Right. A well-dressed individual,  maybe 25, eloquent, very sure of himself,  he started off talking about how government often makes programs just because it likes to make programs, and then he got into the embryonic vs. adult stem cell research debate.

He said his piece, and I endured it. I just kept my hands on the desk and looked straight ahead. I am sure it was as difficult for my opponent to have to listen to my words as it was for me to listen to his—that’s democracy—but Roman was not so calm. I listened to the sounds of his breathing, and knew he was just boiling mad, hearing the opposition talk about our bill and trash-talking the research.

Recently an article came out from the religious right which stated that the money from AB 190 would go to the Roman Reed Foundation—completely wrong. The Roman Reed Foundation is a private entity, with no connection to AB 190.

I wrote to the website which ran the piece and pointed out the error—and the next piece that came out did not contain that mistake.

I appreciate that. Democracy is a fragile thing, beautiful but breakable. If opposite sides can maintain a modicum of care and courtesy, that leaves the door open to someday work together.

When the opposition concluded, our legislative champion,  Fremont’s Bob Wieckowski, responded. Bob is new on the job and I had no idea how he would be under the pressure of committee hearings.

But he responded with a cheerful clarity that acknowledged the objections raised by our opposition, and dealt with them. He had earlier spoken from prepared text, and the caring nature of the man came through.

He made me proud to be a Democrat.

And now there was nothing left: only the vote, up or down, yes, or no.

Chairman Ammiano (D)—abstained. (This was a gift—he did not try to tell the others how to vote!)

Hagman (R) –no.

Knight (R)-no

Skinner (D)—yes

Mitchell (D)-yes

Cedillo (D)-yes

Hill (D) — yes

We had it, had the four votes we needed!

AB 190 was passed by the Committee on a 4-2 official vote.

Roman and Karen and Bill Leeds and I went outside and were happy.

And Roman said: “all the help we got, the thousands of emails back and forth, people all up and down the state and across the country in support—how are we going to thank all those people?”

To which Karen responded:

“Just pass the bill, that’s what matters.”

Now we move on to Appropriations.

Stay tuned, dear friends of research for cure.

Paralysis Cure Decision

Pranav and the Court Decision

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4 Responses to “One Small Committee”

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15

World Turned

2009
December
24

Christmas Eve

November
24

What Paralyzed

20

Nebraska Stands

15

Nebarska Decision

12

Trial of American

04

Four Horrors

October
26

20

Re-Impose Bush Ban?

07

2009

September
19

Did You Forget

15

America Steps Up: anti-stem cell suit to be dismissed?

14

America's Stem Cell

01

The Eiffel Tower

August
08

Great International

06

Why we fight

01

Unconstitutional?

July
15

A Global Shout

09

Retraction

08

How Not to Kill

June
26

The "Do-Over Committee"

24

Trained workers needed

17

Our Nancy

05

Another Attack

May
26

Click, Comment, Share

21

One Day Opportunity!

20

Against All Odds

17

1 Page

12

Contact the NIH

02

Please Contact NIH

02

NIH Gudeline Comments

April
29

Oklahoma Courage

20

Texas Tornado

15

President Obama

13

North Dakota

March
31

One phone call

26

A year in the life

10

At the White House

February
10

In Memory Of

January
28

The Return of

16

A Global Stem Cell

09

Time to Tax?

02

The Lone Star

2008
December
30

Three Women

19

Christmas Under Duress

13

Stem Cell Research

05

California Stem Cell

02

Preventing

November
18

Death Sentence by Disease

12

Join Us In Sacramento

07

Three Victories

03

Tomorrow, we win

01

Dole Slanders

October
31

Stem Cells May Cure the Economy

28

Help Michigan Today

10

Michigan Miracle?

03

Vicki Englund

September
30

Senate Bill 1565

26

Fax and Ask Gov.

26

Backstage

19

Sara Palin

12

Stem Cells

05

Write to Arnold