California Assembly Bill 190: Traffic Fees to Fund Spinal Cord Research

A proposed California law to add $3 to traffic fines to fund spinal cord injury research remains pending in the state Legislature. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski introduced Assembly Bill 190 in January 2011. The bill calls for an additional $3 fine for state or local traffic violations (except parking tickets) to be transferred to the spinal cord injury research fund created at the University of California. AB 190 underwent amendments in March and passed the California Assembly Public Safety Committee by a majority vote in April. The bill been awaiting hearings prior to a full Assembly vote.

The bill supports the mission of the state's Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Act, which was enacted in 2000 to provide public and private funds for spinal cord injury research. It is named for former Chabot College football player Roman Reed, who was paralyzed during a game. The fund has allocated money for research since 2001 to the University of California's Reeve-Irvine Research Center. Assembly Bill 190, which would add the $3 penalty on law breakers, could generate an additional $11 million per year for the spinal cord injury research fund.

There are, however, several organizations that oppose the bill. Some opponents believe the bill will support controversial embryonic stem cell research; others believe the traffic surcharge funds will be diverted to medical entitlements and not to needed community-based programs.

Supporters of AB 190 see the bill as a no-tax solution for a fund that has no money. The programs offer crucial support to biomedical research that can greatly improve the quality of life of survivors of spinal cord injuries. Legislators, including Wieckowski, argue that since motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries, it is proper to levy research funds from these traffic law violators.

In California alone, nearly 464,000 people suffer from paralysis. Passage of the bill and collection of the tax surcharge would help advance research that could improve the lives of spinal cord injury victims and their families.