This testimony in support of SB 731 as amended is offered on behalf of the Catholic Bishops serving Maryland and their dioceses.
SB 731 as amended by the Senate Finance Committee represents a compromise. Constituents who would like to attend the annual Stem Cell Symposium but cannot afford to do so did not get what they requested, a waiver of the fee to attend. Nor did the Maryland Stem Cell Commission get what it requested, which is no change to the status quo.
Instead, SB 731 requires that if the Maryland Stem Cell Commission desires to hold the symposium at an expensive venue, driving the cost of admission above $75, a second, low-cost event shall be held for the general public and no more than a minimal admission fee may be charged. Thus, the Stem Cell Commission is not barred from holding an extravagant event and charging whatever they please for admission, and the people of Maryland will be able to attend a related event and learn about the stem cell research funded with their tax dollars.
The public is very interested in stem cell research. Currently, the annual symposium is the only way to learn about the results of research funded with state tax dollars because the annual report, published online, contains no research results. See the link below to view the 2010 Annual Report; it contains only a summary of the research proposals, not the results of research already completed.
The General Assembly should keep in mind the purpose of Maryland’s annual stem cell symposium: to educate taxpayers about the research in which their tax dollars have been invested. Reducing the cost of the symposium would mean costs would not have to be passed on to citizens, and money intended to fund research would be spent on research, not on the symposium. SB 731 is an excellent compromise and we urge a favorable report.