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Bill to regulate stem-cell research rejected by Senate

Thursday April 21, 2005

KELLY KEARSLEY

Olympia, WA, Aug. 12, 2005(AP) - OLYMPIA -- After days of delay, the Senate killed a bill yesterday that would permit and regulate stem-cell research, with two Republicans who originally supported the measure jumping back to join their caucus.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, was the lone Republican to vote for the bill, which was defeated 26-23.

The measure would permit stem-cell research, including the use of human embryonic stem cells, but prohibit reproductive cloning.

Senate Democrats said they thought they had enough votes to pass the bill, but a few senators apparently changed their minds.

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, voted against the bill after giving a floor speech Friday in which he said he was voting in favor. He said he lost his grandfather and a close friend to Alzheimer’s and that his father died from complications of diabetes.

Hewitt did not return phone calls yesterday afternoon.

Senate Republicans tried various tactics to delay yesterday’s vote, including asking that the Senate adjourn early, and seeking to send the bill back to committee.

The stalling frustrated Senate Democrats, who have been waiting to vote on the bill since an emotional debate Thursday.

Embryonic stem cells are at the heart of the controversy. Such cells come from human embryos created through in-vitro fertilization. The embryos are destroyed when stem cells are extracted.

Scientists believe embryonic stem-cell research could lead to cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Opponents say destroying the embryos is destroying human life.

Senate Democrats say the bill still has a chance. In an attempt to keep it alive, Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, switched her vote from yes to no. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said that because Brown voted with the majority, Senate rules will allow Brown to bring the bill back for reconsideration.