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Bill would deny tax credits to firms creating stem-cell cultures

The Wisconsin Assembly voted late Tuesday night to amend a bill granting tax credits so that any corporation doing research on newly created human embryonic stem cells would be denied.

Mirroring federal funding restrictions, the amended bill excludes firms that do any research involving the destruction of human embryos – perhaps most significantly to extract stem cells from them – after August 9, 2001. It also excludes any firm that clones human embryos.

Governor Jim Doyle said on Wednesday that he will veto the bill, and any other bill that attempts to restrict stem-cell research.

August 9, 2001, was the date that President Bush signed legislation denying federal funds under similar circumsances. Researchers who get federal funding must use stem-cell cultures developed before that date.

Representative Steve Kestell, R-Elkhorn, authored the amendment and called it a compromise, which is also what Bush's measure has been called.
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WiCell, in Madison, owns five such cultures. The cells multiply on their own, so they are not running out, but demand is increasing and doubts about the outdated methods used to create the cultures have surfaced. Recently, companies have started looking toward developing new cultures without federal funding, especially after California pledged $3 billion in bond funding for stem-cell research.

However, increased demand for new cells has rekindled moral debates over the destruction of human embryos left over at fertility clinics, which Bush's 2001 measure was meant to address.

The amended AB 206 passed the Assembly immediately after the amendment did, both in partisan votes:

The amendment: 60-36 in favor. 54-4 among Republicans, 4-32 among Democrats.

The bill: 59-36 in favor. 59-0 among Republicans. 0-36 among Democrats.

Up next: The Assembly bill was messaged to the Senate, which has a similar bill, sans amendment, in committees – SB 103.

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