Speaker pro tem of House steps down

Friday, July 13, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican Rep. Carl Bearden, the No. 2 ranking member in the Missouri House, resigned Thursday to take an advocacy job in which he could end up lobbying his former colleagues on education issues.

Bearden, the House speaker pro tem, was first elected to represent part of St. Charles County in November 2000.

Because of Bearden's early departure, House members will have to elect a replacement for his leadership position. Gov. Matt Blunt is expected to call a special election to choose Bearden's successor in the 16th House District.

In his new job, Bearden said he would be working "to further some of the causes that I've really been passionate about -- the education reform causes, the tax-credit scholarship types of things, the opportunities for school kids in St. Louis and Kansas City, the fiscal responsibility things like the spending limitations."

Bearden declined to identify for whom he would be working, saying further details would be announced today.

Bearden has sponsored legislation that would provide state tax credits to people or businesses that donate to not-for-profit groups which in turn provide scholarships for certain students in St. Louis or Kansas City to attend other public or private schools.

Gov. Matt Blunt and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder also supported Bearden's bill. But the House defeated it in March by a 96-62 vote.

The vote marked a setback for Bearden, who has been one of the House's most influential members. He served two years as House Budget Committee chairmen before becoming House speaker pro tem in January 2005.

Bearden, 51, had considered running in a special election this September to replace Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles, who resigned. But Bearden said in April that he would not run; Republicans have nominated House Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, for the Senate seat.

If Dempsey wins, both the House's No. 2 and No. 3 officials will be new for next year. House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, has been pursuing political consulting jobs but has stressed he is not planning to step down. Jetton also is barred by term limits from seeking re-election in 2008.

Bearden said term limits played a role in his decision to resign instead of serving out his final year.

"Term limits created opportunity for many of us to be here and be in the positions we're in," Bearden said, "but they also create a point and time where you've got to make decisions. There are opportunities that exist right now. The decisions to leave are needing to be made now as opposed to a year from now."

In his resignation letter, Bearden said he believes term limits should be extended from eight years in each chamber to 12.

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