Stem cell battle in Nebraska

Nebraska has been a "red state" for decades, but Nebraska state senator Joel Johnson, a Republican and former surgeon, was bothered by Senate colleagues' attempts in recent years to pass a bill banning somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

Alison McCook
Feb 13, 2005

Nebraska has been a "red state" for decades, but Nebraska state senator Joel Johnson, a Republican and former surgeon, was bothered by Senate colleagues' attempts in recent years to pass a bill banning somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). So he decided to fight back and introduce another bill, LB580, that does almost the opposite: banning reproductive cloning but permitting research on embryonic stem cells. "We decided to take the offensive this year," he says.

In the past two years, Nebraska has toyed with a bill banning all forms of cloning. Last year, Johnson and like-minded legislators used filibustering to delay a vote, forcing the other side to produce 33 votes (out of 49) required to stop the debate. This left supporters of the ban a few votes shy of victory before the session ended. Johnson admits that it was a close call: "We were on pins and needles for a while."...