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Editorial: Unacceptable poison pill in tobacco tax initiative

By the Editorial Board Apr 24, 2016 It pains us to reverse this newspaper’s support for what seemed like a worthy Missouri constitutional amendment, but we cannot advocate a clear attempt to deceive voters with what now appears to be a Trojan horse measure. We’re talking about a ballot initiative that aimed to raise $305 million a year for children’s health by hiking the state tobacco tax. Had the initiative’s language stopped there, we’d be 100 percent behind it today, as we were when we endorsed it in February. But the measure contains a clause with unacceptable long-term implications for important scientific research. The group Raise Your Hands for Kids touted this initiative as a way to raise money for young children by increasing the state’s cigarette tax, the lowest in the nation, from 17 cents to 77 cents a pack. The poisonous part involves language stipulating the new tax revenue cannot be used for abortions, abortion services or for “human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem-cells.” The stem-cell language has sent Missouri Cures, a coalition that successfully campaigned for a constitutional amendment protecting stem-cell research in 2006, running from this initiative. Likewise, Washington University has withdrawn support and is now lobbying against it. State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, is another former supporter who has bolted. Having previously raised funds for the campaign, she is now writing donors to explain her decision to withdraw support and asking them to do the same. Schupp says the initiative was “hijacked” and that it “threw a bone to groups against stem-cell research and anti-abortion proponents.” Linda Rallo, executive director of Raise Your Hands for Kids, says her group inserted the language because [...]

Tobacco companies bankrolling rival efforts to hike Missouri’s tobacco tax

By JO MANNIES • 4.21.16 For all the talk about increasing Missouri’s tobacco tax to provide more money for education and transportation, the state’s two dueling tobacco-tax proposals appear caught in a longstanding dispute that has nothing to do with their objectives. Tobacco companies are the chief donors to both initiative-petition campaigns that seek to increase the state’s 17-cent-a-pack tobacco tax, now the nation’s lowest. One would raise the tax by 23 cents a pack to pay for transportation improvements, while the other would hike the tax by 60 cents a pack to pay for early childhood programs. In a nutshell, the dueling donations stem from a decades-long fight between the nation’s largest tobacco companies, and the smaller ones. The large tobacco companies are upset that Missouri’s laws currently allow small tobacco companies to avoid making the government payments imposed by a multi-state court settlement in place since 1998. Missouri is the only state that still has such an exemption. Different tobacco interests have different reasons to support tobacco tax proposals. Reynolds American Inc., the parent company of the RJ Reynolds tobacco company, has donated more than $2 million to the Raise Your Hand for Kids group that is championing the 60-cent-a-pack increase in Missouri’s tobacco tax. Reynolds’ contributions represent over 90 percent of the money that the group has collected for its initiative-petition drive to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot. A Reynolds American spokesman, Bryan Hatchell, says the company’s money reflects its support for Raise Your Hand’s objective to earmark the bulk of the tax hike for early childhood programs focused on education and health. But Hatchell and Raise Your Hand executive director Linda Rallo acknowledge there’s another reason for [...]

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

        Why does Missouri Cures oppose the 2016 Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment ballot initiative promoted by a group called Raise Your Hand for Kids (RYH4K)? Missouri Cures does not take a position on the merits of a tobacco tax to support early childhood education. Our opposition to the initiative is rooted in the proposed ballot language, which states: “No funds from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d).” The effect of this sentence if it were to become part of the Missouri Constitution would be quite damaging. It would conflict with the constitution’s currently unambiguous voice protecting the freedom to conduct stem cell research in Missouri and would undermine the otherwise science friendly climate in our state. Could there be negative repercussions if the RYH4K language is allowed to become part of the Missouri Constitution? Yes. The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Amendment speaks with a single, clear voice that all stem cell research permitted under federal law will be permitted in Missouri. The constitutional ambiguity introduced by the RYH4K language would open the door to attempts in the General Assembly to restrict stem cell research directly or to other tactics aimed at creating a chilling effect on research. In the best case, such legislation might be successfully blocked; but it might lead to costly, divisive litigation with unpredictable outcomes and embarrassment to our state. The current climate in Missouri is safe for doctors and scientists who wish to participate in federally approved stem cell research. Anti-research legislation cannot threaten this freedom and [...]

Missouri Cures opposes hijacked ballot initiative

Since the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Constitutional Amendment was passed by voters in 2006, anti-research activists have continued to find ways to reverse the medical and economic gains. Their latest attempt has been to insert language in an otherwise attractive ballot proposal, "Raise Your Hand for Kids," that would fund early childhood education with increased tobacco taxes. As long as the RYH4K ballot initiative contains words that stifle the search for better medical treatments, Missouri Cures urges everyone to oppose the RYH4K initiative.   The problem is the very harmful language restricting stem cell research and carving out a constitutional exception to what was passed in the 2006 Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Amendment. Missouri Cures, and our tens of thousands of supporters, have rallied around our effort to make Missouri a science-friendly state. We have consistently and openly opposed similar language when proposed on even the most favorable business development bills, because we fully recognize the harmful effects such language creates. Please read our op-ed that is being published around the state, "Missouri Cures Opposes Hijacked Ballot Initiative" Thank you for your continued support as we work together to move cures and therapies forward! Dena Ladd, Executive Director Margaret Tollerton, Outreach Director Donn Rubin, Chairman

Amendment made human cloning illegal in Missouri

February 19, 2015 Regarding the letter "Abortion proponents try to redefine when life begins" (Feb. 10): The statement that the Amendment 2 campaign in 2006 legalized human cloning is absolutely incorrect. Amendment 2 guarantees that all research taking place on the federal level will remain legal in Missouri, keeping our outstanding research institutions in the state on the same level playing field with the rest of the country. It is important that Missouri has the ability to recruit the best and brightest researchers to our state. This not only moves cures and therapies forward but is also good for Missouri’s economy. Amendment 2 also protects patients and physicians who choose to use therapies that involve stem cell research. Finally, because of Amendment 2, human cloning is now illegal in Missouri. Dena Ladd  •  Clayton Executive director, Missouri Cures

NIH Will No Longer Require Special Review for U.S. Gene Therapy Trials

Science Insider, by Jocelyn Kaiser ~ May 22, 2014 In a milestone for the field of gene therapy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will no longer subject all proposed gene therapy clinical trials to review by a special federal advisory committee. “Given the progress in the field, I am confident that the existing regulatory authorities can effectively review most gene transfer protocols and that a streamlined process will reduce duplication and delays in getting gene transfer trials initiated,” said NIH Director Francis Collins in a statement today. Instead, the 40-year-old Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) will review only a few trials that pose special risks. Originally created to review all gene transfer experiments, the RAC in the late 1980s shifted its focus mainly to gene therapy trials. The committee selects about 20% of submitted protocols for discussion at public meetings. As the field has matured and gene therapy has been used to treat disorders such as inherited blindness and immune deficiencies, researchers have argued that the risks are no different than those of other experimental treatments. They point out that they must already go through reviews by institutional ethics and biosafety boards and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. RAC review is redundant and slows progress, argued the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy. In December 2013, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel agreed. It said that although NIH should continue to register trials, the RAC only needs to publicly review protocols that cannot be evaluated by standard oversight bodies and pose unusual risks, for example because they use a new vector. NIH issued a noncommittal response, making it unclear whether it would follow through. But today, Collins announced that NIH has “decided [...]

Supreme Court allows federal stem cell research to continue

By Bill Mears , CNN Supreme Court Producer updated 12:28 PM EST, Tue January 8, 2013 (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a long-standing appeal from scientists who tried to block funding of stem cell research on human embryos. The brief order from the justices is a victory for supporters of federally funded testing to combat a range of diseases and illnesses. Federal courts had previously lifted an injunction on continued funding, and this latest high court action probably means the lawsuits will be ultimately dismissed. The field of embryonic stem cell research has been highly controversial, because in most cases, the research process involves destroying the embryo, typically four or five days old, after removing stem cells. These cells are blank and can become any cell in the body. Because of the destruction of embryos, most opponents believe this is a moral issue. Supporters of the research point to the potential for saving lives. Legislation passed in 1996 prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in the creation or destruction of human embryos "for research purposes." Private money had been used to gather batches of the developing cells at U.S.-run labs. That congressional ban had been renewed annually. Stem cells vs. heart attacks The current administration had broken with the Bush White House and issued rules in 2009 permitting those cells to be reproduced in controlled conditions and for work on them to move forward. Obama administration officials have been at odds with many members of Congress over whether the National Institutes of Health research causes an embryo's destruction, as prohibited by the Dickey-Wicker Act. In opposing the lawsuit, the government had argued that an extensive list of research projects outlined by the government health research agency would have to be shelved if the courts blocked further funding. Some scientists say that embryonic stem cells could [...]