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And Who Will Speak for Us?

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Logically, I should not have a cold and sinking feeling in my gut, when I think about our bill to fight paralysis.

It is doing very well, so far. Assembly Bill 714 (Wiekowski, D-Fremont) passed the California State Assembly by an overwhelming margin. (I originally reported the victory as 64-0 in our favor, but more votes came in later, and the final tally was 68-3.)

Next we face the Senate, probably two committee meetings and the full body's vote -- after that, if we survive, the governor will rule.

Of course we are doing the necessary chores. Advocate friends are still writing the seemingly endless letters of support. Roman and I are visiting Sacramento, knocking on doors, asking to speak with overworked legislative aides. "I only have a minute," they usually say, having 150 other bills to work on; to which we answer, "It's a great bill and it doesn't cost much, just one million dollars a year to restore funding to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act" -- and then we give them as many arguments (from both humanitarian and health cost points of view) as they have seconds to spare.

There is no reason to suspect a cruel surprise.

But still I woke last night after just two hours sleep, a cold sweat beading on my brow.

This Wednesday, July 3, the Senate Health Committee will hear arguments on AB 714. The bill's author Bob Wieckowski will make his statement, after which Roman and I will get a moment (literally, sixty seconds apiece) to make our case. Perhaps the California Health Institute or one of the other groups in support will voice their support publicly again.

We will do our best to persuade, of course, choosing every word carefully. This is life and death to us; we know too many people suffering -- we will talk the best we can.

But it is what the senators say that matters.

Will someone speak on our behalf? Will we hear that beautiful phrase, "move to approve" followed by "Second" -- or a stony silence -- or a devastating attack?

No way to know. These moments are filled with tension like an overcharged electric line.

At the last hearing, a Republican stood up, Travis Allen, of California's 72nd district.

I had no idea what to expect. Roman and I had both visited his office, and spoke to his legislative aides, and they were cheerful and polite and did not rush the interview -- but aides are always careful, and I had no clue which way Assemblyman Allen would vote.

He was a Republican, that much we knew. But what was his stance on the issue? Some would attack the Roman Reed Act because of our four projects (of 129) using embryonic stem cells -- even though the cells were approved by former President George W. Bush.

Or was he the kind of Republican with an economics background we could have a conversation with -- tech-savvy, biomed friendly, in touch with California's burgeoning life science economy? Might he perhaps have a friend who was paralyzed? Maybe he would see the need for AB 714 because cure is the most efficient way to lower skyrocketing medical costs.

And then he spoke, and removed all doubt. Listen to what he said; it is short.

There was no hemming or hawing, no fudge words or equivocation: just plain strong support. He thanked the author for bringing the measure forward, referenced our program's success with stem cell research, even gave a well-informed summary of the types of paralysis cure research done at UC Irvine -- and closed by urging every member of the Assembly to vote yes on AB 714, to fund the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act.

California may be pioneering a new kind of Republican.

Although we have not spoken personally, Travis Allen appears to be what I would call a biomed Republican: a person with whom I might disagree on some issues, but could work together on the life and death concerns of curing our loved ones.

Isn't that what politics is supposed to be about, where people of opposing viewpoints can wrestle out their differences -- and find common grounds to work together?

Here are the nine members of the crucial Senate Health committee, which meets July 3rd.

Please drop each one a short message to their e-mail box, or FAX address. Tell them you support AB 714 to restore funding (one million dollars annually) to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act.

Chair: Ed Hernandez--FAX 916-445-0485 Senator.Hernandez@senate.ca.gov

Jim Beall--FAX 916-323-4529 Senator.Beall@senate.ca.gov

Fran Pavley--FAX 818-876-0802 Senator.Pavley@senate.ca.gov

Jim Nielsen--FAX 916-445-7750 Senator.Nielsen@senate.ca.gov

Bill Monning--FAX 916-445-8081 Senator.Monning@senate.ca.gov

Mark DeSaulnier--FAX 916-445-2527 Senator.DeSaulnier@senate.ca.gov

Vice Chair: Joel Anderson--FAX 916-447-9008 Senator.Anderson@senate.ca.gov

Kevin DeLeon-- FAX 916-327-8817 Senator.DeLeon@senate.ca.gov

Lois Wolk--FAX 916-323-2304 Senator.Wolk@senate.ca.gov

Wish us luck, this coming Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013, when nine men and women will decide the fate of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act -- and maybe help us cure paralysis in our lifetime.