Stem cell research on the line - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Stem cell research on the line

Rochester, Minn. (KTTC) --

A controversial, cost-cutting bill has cleared the Minnesota Senate. The bill, approved 36 to 29, would freeze government worker pay for 2 years, alter state employee health insurance and slice budgets for most agencies. The bill is $500 million leaner than recommendations from Governor Mark Dayton.

State workers would be shifted into high-deductible insurance plans with costs partially offset by state contributions to health savings accounts.

This is just one of the many things happening in the legislature this week. In the higher education bills, passed by both chambers last night, there were amendments added that would prohibit the use of state or federal dollars to do certain stem cell research in State colleges and Universities.

But there's a much larger bill in the works that would ban "human cloning" all together.

To an area that's home to Mayo Clinic, IBM, and the Hormel Institute, research and innovation are the backbone to a growing biobusiness climate in the state, specifically Southeast Minnesota.

But according to Dale Wahlstrom, the CEO of the Biobusiness Alliance and LifeScience Alley, he says that growth could all change with one single bill.

"The last thing we need is to enhance our reputation of being not the center for this kind of work," says Wahlstrom.

There's a proposal in the works at the state Capitol that would ban all human cloning, making it a felony offense. But as it stands, Wahlstrom says the wording is confusing, and many scientists don't know if the bill means they simply cannot clone human beings, or if that extends to certain types of embryonic stem cell research.

"I'm assuming that the people are strictly trying to do the latter, which is to get it in the books and say no Human cloning, and if the language were that clear, I don't think people would be concerned about it," Wahlstrom explains.

Wahlstrom says he fears biobusinesses like the Elk Run Project, or the Minnesota BioBusiness Center could hop the border if there are limits on their research.

"Some of the damage is already occurring, because what we don't want is the image that Minnesota is closed to this kind of science."

The proposal has yet to hit the house or senate floor.

Wahlstrom says he doesn't think the proposal would make it past the Governor's desk, but he has not yet heard anything from the Mark Dayton on the subject.

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