The Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, or Roman’s Law, was originally established to provide funds required for researching spinal cord injury paralysis cures. Roman’s Law puts state funds into a general fund for the University of California system, which grants select scientists the financial resources necessary for groundbreaking research into paralysis cure.
Named after Roman Reed, whose vertebrae were crushed during a college football tackle, leaving him paralyzed and ending his dreams of the NFL. Since then, he has gone on to regain use of his arms, father 3 children, and spearhead the campaign for Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999, along with his father Don Reed, who has worked tirelessly along side his son to see this funding get passed.
In the decade of Roman’s Law funding, $14 million dollars was spent on research to attempt to cure paralysis. The program brought an additional $64 million dollars in “new money” to California, mainly through matching grants from the National Institutes of Health and other sources, which equaled a 4-to-1 return on California’s investment. The breakthroughs accomplished thanks to Roman’s Law funding include:
- 175 published papers;
- The world’s first embryonic stem cell human trials had been begun by Geron, Inc.;
- Two patents were pending, including a revolutionary change to the Petri dish itself, so it could sort cells and save money;
- Robotic devices co-developed with NASA could lower the costs of rehabilitation;
- An electronic “bridge” could join the halves of a completely severed spine;
- A new biomed company, California Stem Cells, Inc., was formed from research Roman’s Law funded first;
- Scientists developed more accurate ways to measure paralysis and recovery;
- A strange-looking electronic “suit” allowed a paralyzed person to actually walk;
- A new discovery made it possible for nerves to reconnect through the injury scar.
Roman’s Law was originally paid for by the general fund collected from state tax revenue, with $1.5 million dollars a year provided by the State of California. Recent budget cuts meant that the fund would no longer receive money from the state. New funding sources were considered after the budget cuts, and the Appropriations Committee was asked to approve a $3 traffic ticket add-on as a means of funding Roman’s Law last year. The request was turned down, with the main objection being that if a poor person received a traffic ticket and could not pay it, he or she would go to jail.
This year, the Appropriations Committee is being asked to reconsider, but instead of a $3 add-on to traffic tickets, a $1 add-on was requested. So far in 2012, that bill (AB 1657) passed the Assembly, as well as the Transportation and Housing Committee. Next stop is the Appropriations Committee (where it was defeated last year), and after that, the full California Senate, followed by the Governor’s signature. If it can get through all of that, Roman’s Law can start funding paralysis research once again.
Eight states have already passed similar bills: Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Alabama. Those states have traffic ticket add-on fees that range as high as $100, making the California bill seem like a very small price to ask for such an important cause.
While supporters of Roman’s Law sit and wait the verdict, what is your opinion? Should traffic ticket add-ons fund paralysis research?