By Steven Tavares

Roman Reed (55) injured his spinal cord during
 a game at Chabot College in 1994.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) thinks a small portion of your automobile ticket for bad driving should go towards a good cause. The freshman lawmaker introduced a bill last week that would add $3 to all traffic tickets to help spinal cord injury research.
Forty percent of spinal cord trauma results from automobile accidents, says Wieckowski. “It makes sense to levy this small fine on violators,” he said. “These research funds could lead to pioneering breakthroughs in biotechnology that not only help patients but our state-wide biotech economy too.”

The proceeds of AB 190 would go directly to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund. Reed was a former Chabot College football player who suffered a spinal cord injury during a game in 1994. Reed was appointed to the Fremont Planning Commission last September.

There is an obvious Fremont nexus to the bill. The original legislation forming the fund was authored in 1999 by then-assemblyman John Dutra and co-sponsored by former state Sen. Liz Figueroa. There is also a sense of urgency of behind Wieckowski’s bill. In 2006, another Dutra-backed bill extended the research fund’s sunset date another five years to 2011. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger renewed the law last year, but, supporters of the fund say without the potential windfall of $3 per traffic violation, the fund could be in doubt due to the state’s dire budget situation.

As written in 1999, the law formed the research fund to collect grants from both public and private donors and be administered by the U.C. system. The Roman Reed research facility is located at U.C. Irvine and any remaining dollars cannot be reverted to the state’s general fund. The fund, according to Wieckowski, has attracted $14 million in donations along with $60 million in federal dollars and grants. According to an essay in the Huffington Post, the research facility funded the first use of the President Bush-approved line of stem cells.
NOTE: I was covering the football game at Chabot College for the Chabot Spectator when Roman Reed was paralyzed on the field. I remember interviewing him and was amazed then by his courage only a year into his recovery.