A leader in the House accuses the Missouri Catholic Conference of misleading lawmakers about life science research funding and claims the influence of the conference is waning. A lobbyist for the Conference dismisses the allegations.

House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles) criticizes the Missouri Catholic Conference for its opposition to the MoHELA college capital improvement plan and its attacks on House leadership for not pushing through an Amendment Two fix. Bearden says the Conference has lost a great deal of credibility among lawmakers inclined to support it, because of its stance on the two issues.

Bearden blames the Catholic Conference, in part, for the stall of the MoHELA bill in the Senate. He says the Conference has been misleading in its lobbying of lawmakers by insinuating that the legislature cannot push the measure without fear that money will be funneled into human cloning or embryonic stem cell research.

Bearden also is upset about the Missouri Catholic Conference’s assessment that Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) has stalled anti-Amendment Two legislation. Bearden claims, "It’s a flat lie" that Jetton has stonewalled the measure and done anything he can to kill it.

Missouri Catholic Conference lobbyist Larry Webber says it is public record that Jetton sent the resolution to a special committee, the House Health Policy Committee that he created. That committee is split evenly, five-five, on the issue, making it nearly impossible to move HJR 11 out of committee. Supporters of the measure took advantage of a missing committee member to move it out of the committee, in position to go to the House floor for debate. It hasn’t been placed in position for debate.

Webber says he doesn’t believe he’s lost credibility, "At any day at the Capitol, legislators seek me out, asking the Catholic Church’s opinion on a variety of issues." Webber says he is available to discuss the issues with Rep. Bearden, but Bearden hasn’t spoken to him about his concerns.

Webber does say that passage of Amendment Two has made it difficult for the Catholic Conference to make its traditional distinction between ethical and unethical life science research. Amendment Two, approved by voters in November, prohibits the state legislature from placing restrictions on stem cell research that are more stringent that federal regulations. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)