01 May Former Thompson lawyer comments on Doyle stem cell executive order
Madison, Wis. – A former chief legal counsel to former Gov. Tommy Thompson said there is nothing inappropriate from a legal standpoint with Gov. Jim Doyle’s April 25 executive order on stem cells.
Ray Taffora, a partner in the Madison office of Michael Best & Friedrich, said the governor’s powers include the authority to direct state departments to spend money on certain programs. On April 25, the governor issued an executive order directing the Department of Commerce to spend at least $5 million in economic development money to recruit new stem cell companies to Wisconsin.
“He [Doyle] is the chief executive,” Taffora said, and he can direct a state department to take a certain action. “In this case, the DOC has the discretion to spend money on certain programs. The governor is well within his authority to direct the department to use that discretion by means of executive order.”
Taffora, who served as Thompson’s chief legal counsel from 1987 to 1991, said there is nothing in the statues or the state constitution that would require that an executive order pertain to areas like the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Historically, it is a device that has been used by the state’s chief executive to instruct subordinates in the execution of their discretionary powers.
Earlier this week, a key lawmaker who often disagrees with Doyle on embryonic stem cell research said he saw nothing inappropriate about the governor’s use of the executive order as an instrument to fund the recruiting of stem cell companies. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, said it is within the governor’s purview to take existing funds and direct them to certain areas.
“It’s important to engage the Legislature in discussions for policy purposes,” Kanavas said, but he did not dispute that it was within Doyle’s authority to direct the Department of Commerce to spend money to recruit new stem cell companies.
Kanavas has voted with Legislative majorities to enact a comprehensive ban on human cloning, including therapeutic cloning used in research. With therapeutic cloning, an embryo is allowed to develop to the 100 to 200 cell stage, at which point stem cells are isolated for immediate or future use in cell transplantation therapies. The embryo is destroyed in the process of isolating the stem cells.
Doyle vetoed such a ban last year, citing the criminalization of “some of the most promising scientific techniques used by stem cell researchers.”
The goal of the stem cell recruitment strategy is to capture 10 percent of the stem cell technology market by 2015, but Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, sees another motive. She said Doyle is trying to emotionally blackmail the citizens of Wisconsin by pinning their hopes for potential cures, which would happen only years down the road if at all, on research that his own Catholic faith condemns as “horrendously immoral.” In signing the executive order, Doyle cited the potential of stem cell research to help scientists find therapies for life-threatening and debilitating diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. The governor’s mother suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and while he acknowledged Tuesday that stem cell research probably won’t help her, he said it has the potential to help future generations.
“The embryos on whom the governor is promoting research are people – they have their own distinct DNA and if they were created naturally and not manipulated by scientists, they would gestate and grow up to look like you and me,” Hamill stated. “They are our brothers and sisters.”
Doyle has tied the state’s economic future to the knowledge economy, including stem cell research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin. He said experts predict that the market for stem cell products could reach $10 billion over the next ten years, translating into more than 100,000 jobs.
Hamill, however, believes that moral considerations trump economics. “Gov. Doyle now wants us to trust him with inviting 10% of the nation’s embryonic stem cell researchers to our state, with no safeguards in place,” she said. “The researchers to whom Gov. Doyle has made a habit of handing our tax dollars show a callous disregard for human life when they conduct embryo-destructive research.”