COLUMBUS - The Ohio House yesterday sidestepped a contentious debate on embryonic stem-cell research, voting overwhelmingly to place $2 billion in borrowing billed as a job-creation package before voters.
In an all-or-nothing ballot question, voters will be asked on Nov. 8 to approve the three-part "Jobs for Ohio" bond issue:
● $500 million over seven years to supplement Gov. Bob Taft's "Third Frontier" program investing in high-tech and biomedical research.
● $1.35 billion over 10 years for roads, bridges, drainage, and other local public works projects, renewal and expansion of an existing bond issue.
● $150 million over seven years for infrastructure improvements associated with "shovel-ready" industrial and commercial development.
"The long-term approach here is not about where the research money lands," said Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson. "It's about where the jobs land that are a result of the research and development. New product development helps every corner of the state."
The resolution passed 84-7 with all northwest Ohio lawmakers except Rep. Jeff Wagner (R., Sycamore) supporting it. "There is a significant amount of support [in my district for the $1.35 billion], but very little support for Third Frontier," he said.
The measure is expected to easily pass the Senate today.
House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) refused to recognize Rep. Mike Gilb (R., Findlay), who planned to offer a proposed amendment prohibiting Third Frontier spending on human cloning research and limiting its use on research involving embryonic stem cells.
Mr. Gilb's stem-cell language would have mirrored the directive issued by President Bush in 2001 that limits federal funds to research involving stem cells lines in existence at that time.
"I would be hopeful that the members of this body would see the wisdom of us not using state dollars to fund an issue in which one life might be taken for the benefit of another," he said.
Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor plans to issue an executive order adopting Mr. Bush's directive, which is already reflected in Third Frontier policy.
Democrats had said the stem-cell amendment would have killed the deal hammered out last week. They won assurances there would be broader geographic representation on the Third Frontier Commission and that labor on related construction would be paid the region's prevailing wage.
"It's important that those that carry this campaign not be political consultants living in Columbus," said House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island). "We need to take this issue to places like Lima, Fremont, and Gallipolis, because this issue failed in those areas, and that's what brought the issue down without any kind of serious opposition two years ago."
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