Appeals court hears stem cell institute case

From a Times Staff Writer

The California Court of Appeal in San Francisco heard oral arguments Wednesday in the 2-year-old dispute that has kept the state’s voter-created stem cell institute from issuing any of the $3 billion in bonds approved under Proposition 71, the 2004 stem cell research initiative.

The plaintiffs in the two consolidated lawsuits are appealing a decision by the Alameda County Superior Court last April that upheld the constitutionality of the institute and its citizen oversight committee.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs -- the People’s Advocate, National Tax Limitation Foundation and California Family Bioethics Council -- argued again that Proposition 71 was unconstitutional because it created a taxpayer-funded entity that is not under the direct management and control of the state. They also argued that the proposition violated the single-subject rule for such measures and that the citizen board has conflicts of interest.

The three-judge panel, whose members interrupted the plaintiff’s arguments numerous times, has 90 days to rule but is widely expected to do so relatively quickly. Both sides have said they would appeal to the California Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the stem cell institute plans to award $24 million in research grants Friday, drawing on a state loan and private donations. The institute last year awarded $12 million in training grants to 16 California institutions.