BACKGROUND: When I first started my professional career as a state government reporter, I knew almost nothing about stem cell research. I remember that President George W. Bush made a highly-publicized speech in 2001 about the subject, but the issue got overshadowed by 9/11.
Then, I got assigned to write a story for the Columbia Daily Tribune profiling a ballot item making it illegal for the legislature to curtail the research. It was a fascinating experience that prompted me to interview scientists, theologians, politicians, doctors and regular people who had incredibly strong opinions. It was a great experience.
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The issue of stem cell research had a sizable effect on Missouri politics in 2006 and 2007. It played a big role in the battle between Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill. It caused splits in the Republican Party, and to some extent the Democratic Party. And the issue played a role in legislative policy over the MOHELA sale and funding for the Life Sciences Research Board.
The issue also sparked an intense disagreement between Missourians. Some felt the research would cure diseases. Others believed the research was immoral. I've seen political debates unfold about a multitude of issues, but this was one that had profoundly passionate voices.
After the battles of 2007, the issue started to fade from the political radar. And besides some attempts to weaken Amendment 2, the issue of stem cell research has been largely absent since the 2009 session began. But the controversy generated gave it a decent place on this list.
FUN FACT: Michael J. Fox's advertisement in support of Claire McCaskill was one of the most talked about advertisements of the 2006 election cycle.