Voters might have decided Amendment Two in November, but the Missouri House continues to debate the stem cell issue.
The House has approved the $21.4 billion state budget that begins July first. The budget debate now shifts to the Senate.
In the House, a split developed among Republicans on the budget funding the Department of Economic Development. That budget contains money for life sciences. Rep. Therese Sander (R-Moberly) objected to line-items funding life sciences, especially $2.3 million allotted innovation centers. Sander notes that the person running the Missouri Technology Corporation spearheaded the campaign to approve Amendment Two. She contends Amendment Two prevents the legislature from ensuring that the money will be spent on agriculture, not on stem cell research.
Others joined her effort, creating a stir among the Republican caucus and holding up a vote on the budget bill. It also prompted some heated exchanges between Republicans.
House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles) criticized members for opposing the State Economic Development Department budget after approving a higher education budget that supports stem cell research. He accused those members of hypocrisy. Fellow Republican Charles Portwood (R-Ballwin) took offense and countered that Bearden was attempting to intimidate Republicans who disagreed with him.
The House cut the Life Science Trust Fund down from $35 million to 13 million. Still, members contend Amendment Two keeps the legislature from ensuring no money will fund embryonic stem cell research.
The clash over life science money highlighted the final House debate on the budget, which includes increases for public schools and higher education. Democrats contend the budget falls short of the needs of education. Republicans point out the $2.8 billion education budget is the largest in state history. Colleges in the state should expect to see an increase of 4.5%. The budget also contains an extra $176 million to transform the Medicaid system into MO HealthNet.