Mo. lawmaker wants stem-cell supporter off university board

Saturday, January 13, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- State Sen. Matt Bartle is trying to block the confirmation of a University of Missouri system governing board member who supports early stem-cell research.

Bartle, a leading opponent of work with early stem cells, said he is concerned about Kansas City businessman Warren Erdman's "strong ties" to the research and doesn't want him on the university system's Board of Curators.

Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Erdman to the board Dec. 29 to replace Angela Bennett, whose term expired. Erdman's selection must be confirmed by the Senate.

Erdman is senior vice president of corporate affairs for railway firm Kansas City Southern. He has been vocal about life-sciences research in Kansas City and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

"Warren Erdman is tied very strongly to those who want to advance human cloning research," Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, told The Kansas City Star. "He is being considered for a position with discretion over how the University of Missouri uses public funds. Therefore, his strong ties raise serious concerns."

Erdman did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press at his office Friday morning.

Erdman has been a leading opponent of Bartle's efforts to ban research that involves cloning cells. Bartle and Rep. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, have introduced legislation that would repeal an state constitutional amendment voters passed in November to protect all forms of stem-cell research allowed by federal law.

The dissension between Bartle and Erdman is an example of how the early stem-cell issue has divided the Republican Party. Erdman's appointment came from a Republican governor and is for a Republican board spot. Yet a Republican senator is trying to block the appointment.

Blunt's office said the governor believes Erdman's board position will be confirmed.

"Warren Erdman, through his civic leadership, has been a true public servant," Blunt spokesman Jessica Robinson said. "We're delighted he agreed to serve and we're confident that his experience and contributions to the state speak for themselves."

Erdman was co-chairman of Blunt's commission on efficiency in state government and is a former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

State law requires the University of Missouri board to be comprised of members from each of the state's nine congressional districts. The university has campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis.

Erdman's bachelor's degree is from Westminster College in Fulton.

Bartle said the stem-cell issue isn't his only concern when it comes to Erdman. He said Erdman's support of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., raises questions about his filling a Republican board spot.

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