Know-it-all Kansas Legislature strikes again
The Kansas City Star
Every week, it seems, the Kansas Legislature takes meddling to a new level.
This week, House members have adopted the role of wannabe hospital officials.
The chamber supported a bill that would require the University of Kansas Medical Center to establish a center to advance stem cell research — but only the types of stem cell research approved by the Kansas Legislature.
In mandating the creation of a “Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center” (yes, the House even dictated the name) lawmakers proposed no new funding for the university medical center.
Officials said such a center would require more than $1 million to set up, and about $750,000 a year for operating expenses. House members blithely said the university could raise that in grants and gifts.
That, people, is what you call an unfunded mandate — something the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature professes to despise, unless of course the lawmakers are doing the mandating.
Opponents of the measure, including GOP Rep. Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills, argued correctly but fruitlessly that the creation of a new hospital center should be the result of demonstrated need and a thorough planning process, not a legislative mandate.
Those arguments were to no avail. Advancement of adult and cord blood stem cell research has been a favorite cause of Kansas’ extreme “pro-life” faction ever since those technologies were pitted against a controversial form of embryonic stem cell research. Opponents of the embryonic research claim a procedure which extracts stem cells from a ball of cells smaller than the head of a pin amounts to the destruction of a human life.
The stem cell wars have mostly abated, happily quieted by rapidly emerging knowledge and technology. But not, apparently, in the Kansas Legislature.
There is nothing wrong with a university hospital setting up a center to further stem cell research. But hospital and university officials should have the freedom to determine its order on the priority list. And they definitely shouldn’t be ordered to start a new program while receiving no new funding.