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Following a March E-News article titled "WANTED: Legislators Seeking Ways to Build Consensus and Connect with Citizens", we learned about two noteworthy examples in Ohio and North Carolina, printed below. If you know of other legislators or legislative initiatives that incorporate consensus building approaches, contact PCI.
Ohio State Representative Merle Grace Kearns in March received the 2004 "Better World Award" from the Ohio Community Mediation Association (OMA). The annual award recognizes Ohioans for their exemplary contributions to the field of alternative dispute resolution.
Kearns, a member of the PCI/NPCC Board, is serving her second term in the Ohio House of Representatives. Prior to her election to the House, she served for 10 years in the Ohio Senate as Majority Whip before being term limited.
Throughout her career in state government, said OMA President Shirley Cochran, "Representative Kearns has promoted and continues to promote the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution in public policy development and state governance."
"My process has always been inclusive," Kearns said of her approach to law-making. "Whenever I write a bill, I try to get all the interested parties together to work through all the bugs, before I even introduce it."
An informal process of negotiating, compromising, and building consensus on legislative issues is gaining acceptance at the North Carolina General Assembly.
Known throughout the state as "605"—the room number of the Legislative Office Building where stakeholder groups convene—the process aims to collaboratively draft bills and rules pursuant to the national and North Carolina environmental policy acts, and to resolve legislative and constituent services issues related to environmental protection and natural resources conservation.
"605 tries to resolve as many of the environmental sub-issues as possible to achieve a degree of consensus to move a bill forward with little or no opposition," explains George Givens, originator of the 605 process.
A principal legislative analyst for North Carolina's General Assembly, Givens says he works on behalf of specific legislators or committee chairs on particular pieces of environmental legislation. In doing so, Givens has interacted with scores of people on a wide range of issues. Such varied interests and positions across the environmental regulatory landscape led Givens to several observations that he says paved the way for the 605 process.
In 1943, the states of Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas signed the Republican River Compact in an effort aimed at equitably dividing the waters of the Republican River among the three states.
After futile attempts via the Republican River Compact Administration to resolve Kansas' concerns about Nebraska's overuse of its allocations, the two states contracted with Chris Moore and Mike Harty, of CDR Associates, to mediate the dispute. After 14 months of intense negotiation, Nebraska water users rejected a preliminary settlement proposal and negotiations broke off in March 1997.
In 1998, following several more years of Kansas' complaints, Kansas filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court against the States of Nebraska and Colorado to enforce their compact rights.
One reason for the suit was that Nebraska was not limiting the drilling of new wells within the Republican River basin. A second reason was that Colorado and Nebraska both failed to limit the quantity of water pumped from wells in the lower two thirds of the basin. Compact records showed that during the 1980s and 1990s Nebraska had frequently exceeded its sub-basin allocations. As a result of the decreased flow during those years, Kansas farmers and water users were unable to satisfy their water needs.
NPCC Executive Director Greg Wolf, and Utah State Rep. Ralph Becker, an NPCC/PCI Board member, shared their views on Enlibra at last month's meeting of the American Planning Association in Washington, D.C.
At the panel session, titled "Enlibra and Environmental Progress", Wolf and Becker joined other Enlibra specialists in a discussion about how the environmental doctrine is being applied to address growth and stewardship conflicts throughout the west.
Enlibra is a term for a set of environmental management principles adopted by the Western Governors Association. The Latin word translates as "toward balance," and was coined by former Utah Governor (now USEPA Administrator) Mike Leavitt and former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, NPCC/PCI Co-Chair. Enlibra encompasses principles for protecting air, land, and water, including the principle of using collaboration to work out solutions to environmental issues.
Before becoming NPCC's founding director, Wolf served as Governor Kitzhaber's Community Policy Advisor and as his Advisor on Sustainability and Dispute Resolution. Representative Becker has long been involved in planning and sustainability issues in Utah. He served as Utah State Planning Coordinator and was a member of the Salt Lake City Planning Commission. Both Wolf and Becker are active proponents of more collaborative, decentralized, and science-based environmental decision making processes through employing the Enlibra principles.
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