Friday, June 01, 2007

Weekly roundup

Stem cell research
Public dollars would be set aside for all types of stem cell research, including the highly controversial embryonic stem cell research, under a measure approved by both chambers.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, whose daughter has juvenile diabetes, made an emotional plea during House floor debate for his peers to approve the proposal. “I understand people may have different beliefs and views about [stem cell research],” said Cross of Oswego. “But this is the right thing to do.”

The research has been touted as potentially helping people with diabetes, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The measure moves to the governor’s desk, and if he signs, people would be able to donate their unused frozen embryos for research.

“This new law will create further incentives for leveraging additional research dollars from foundations, private donors and investors in biotechnology and medical research,” said Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat and Senate sponsor.

Cross also introduced a measure that would earmark $25 million of a national tobacco settlement for the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute to fund stem cell research projects in the state.

HPV vaccines
Parents would receive information about the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease, under a measure approved by both chambers. The disease, often called HPV, is linked to about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, according the U.S. Center of Disease Control.

Merck & Co. developed a vaccine that would target four types of the HPV virus. Under the measure, parents also would get information about the three-shot series during their daughters’ sixth-grade school physicals. The pharmaceutical group came under fire earlier this year when accused of lobbying legislators to push for mandatory vaccinations.

If the governor signs the measure, the state would make the shots available in 2011 to any female younger than 18 who wants to be vaccinated.

The sponsor, House Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson of Crete, also drafted a separate proposal earlier this year that would include the vaccination into girls’ inoculation schedules. The measure stalled in the Senate. Read our March issue for a more in-depth look at the HPV legislation.

Roadside markers
Both chambers also approved a measure that would provide roadside markers to families wishing to place a memorial on the site where their loved ones were killed by an intoxicated driver. If the governor signs it, grieving family members could apply for a roadside marker with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Mental health
A person with mental illnesses deemed as a danger to himself or herself or to others wouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and his or her information would be shared with law enforcement under a measure approved by the Senate. Mental facilities would forward patient information to the Illinois State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And families and other caregivers would be able to admit a person with mental illness into an institution without his or her consent under a separate measure approved by both chambers. If the person had a history of not being able to care for himself or herself or a history of harming others, the caregivers would be able to petition the court and ask for the person to be institutionalized.

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