The Minnesota Legislature has reportedly approved bills that would prohibit the use of state or federal funds to support certain types of stem cell research. The Senate bill (S.F. No. 924) was introduced as an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill; it would prohibit funding for human cloning.

The Senate’s amendment states that cloning “means generating a genetically identical copy of an organism at any stage of development by combining an enucleated egg and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make an embryo,” a technique that can evidently be used to create stem cells. The proposal was reportedly the subject of heated debate, with some arguing that it misled the public on embryonic stem cell research by failing to distinguish between “reproductive cloning”—the first step in the cloning of a human—and “therapeutic cloning,” which involves the creation of a small number of cells for use in the treatment of disease.

After University of Minnesota researchers expressed concern about the impact the Senate’s legislation might have on therapeutic cloning, a corrective amendment was added to a higher education funding bill in the House, (H.F. 1101), which was also passed. This amendment would exempt funding for medical research and further provides that “nothing in this section shall affect the scientific field of stem cell research, unless explicitly prohibited.”

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D-Farmer-Labor) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers promising to veto any funding bills with “extraneous policy items” like this. “If I reject those items, and therefore the bills containing them have to be returned for separate passage, those delays will be the Legislature’s responsibility, not mine,” Dayton wrote. See MNDaily.com, March 29, 2011.