Hope Won't Die for Paralysis Cure Research Bill

Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed California's paralysis program -- for the second time.

Assembly Bill 714 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) would have provided one million dollars to fund California's Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Program.

Why did he veto the small program again? Here is his veto message.

Although the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research program is supported by virtually the entire legislature (every member of the Senate voted yes, as did all but three members of the Assembly) the UC system is not going to get that little bit of money: one million dollars is considered "couch change" in terms of government programs.

I object to the governor classifying our program as an earmark. An earmark says that within the established budget, certain programs must be funded. Our program is not that at all: Our bill requests an addition to their already established budget -- as it always has been in the past.

Since it began in 2000, the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act was always something extra, new money for the UC system -- never a subtraction from their budget.

But the governor has the veto, and there is nothing we can do about it?

I can't accept that. Our small program means a lot to people in wheelchairs, a flicker of hope for folks who have too much misery in their lives.

So do we have to start over from scratch, as we did the past two years? Maybe so. But the governor has vetoed it twice, once because it was not from the General Fund, and once because it was. Maybe he is just going to oppose the program every time, no matter how hard we try to work with him. Certainly we met his objections, whereupon he raised completely new ones this year.

Maybe we should just override his veto. An almost (but not quite) impossible task, but completely legal: a governor's decision can be overturned with a 2/3 vote of the legislature.

I called up the sponsor's office and spoke to the top aides there.

Over-riding the governor's veto would make him angry, one said; it would be hard to get him to accept a new bill next year, if we did that. But if he has already killed the bill twice, maybe we should try something different, I said.

Understandably, no one is eager for friction; the legislators have to work with the governor on numerous bills, not just my one. Also, "It hasn't been done in thirty years," one aide commented.

So the veto override is a long shot at best, even if the bill author did turn out to be interested in trying that strategy -- which so far he has not.

As of this moment, there appears to be only one way the program does not die.

The UC system would have to squeeze our program into their already bare-bones budget. This would be difficult, and not fair to them.

But if the system was willing to sacrifice, chipping in a little bit of money, adding up to a total of one million dollars-- California's paralysis program could survive.

Such possibilities will be explored. I will keep you posted.

And how does Bob Wieckowski, the author of AB 714, feel about the Governor's veto? Here is his press release.

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