A Program for State Legislators Interested in Public Deliberation
Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara (who has signed the Co-Intelligence
Institute's Pledge to Hear the
People's Common Sense) is now organizing state legislators
across the country to strengthen public deliberation as a force
in state governance. He is asking supporters of this initiative
to call and/or email their state legislators
to join this state-level citizen deliberation effort for the long
This powerhouse initiative in the field of citizen deliberation
was instigated by State
Senator Les Ihara of Hawaii. Senator Ihara is the first politician
to sign the Co-Intelligence Institute-sponsored Public
Pledge to Hear the People's Common Sense. Now he is organizing
state legislators across the U.S. to enhance public participation
in state-level decision-making. Working through the primary national
association of state legislators -- the National
Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) -- he is identifying
receptive state legislators with whom he can collaborate to develop
a range of powerful examples of deliberation and, ultimately "evolve
the culture of legislative bodies -- where the public is fundamental
to the legislative process, and legislatures are models for the
practice of democracy."
He has also brokered a 3-year agreement between NCSL and the
Kettering Foundation. Kettering is a leader in the U.S. deliberative
democracy movement, having sponsored widespread citizen deliberation
on public issues for years. Through their new agreement with NCSL,
Kettering will be supporting efforts
- to study current and potential ways for legislators to engage
- to encourage and prepare interested legislators to participate
in deliberative forums;
- to incorporate discussion of deliberation in new legislator
- to educate NCSL staff on public deliberation;
- to develop ways to use deliberative activities for legislators
- to use existing NCSL issue projects to engage citizens deliberatively;
- to develop a national network of deliberation-friendly legislators.
Kettering-funded, NCSL-sponsored research is expected to address
questions such as:
- What do we know about public disaffection with the legislature?
- When do both citizens and legislators begin to recognize a
need for each other?
- What do we know about the capacity of state legislatures to
hear a 'public' voice?
- How could legislators get a better sense of how the public
- What happens to the legislator/public relationship when legislators
listen while the public is
working through issues in deliberative forums?
- What is the role of an official when there is no 'public' readily
WHAT YOU CAN DO
ACTION STEP 1: Find the names and contact information
for your state legislators. If you don't have this information,
you can easily get it by typing your 9-digit ZIP code into the search
box on the upper left corner of <http://www.vote-smart.org>.
That will show you all state and national elected officials and
candidates for your district.
ACTION STEP 2: Call their office and say something
like, "Please tell [legislator] that I'm very concerned about
the lack of citizen deliberation at the state level. Several leading
state legislators are organizing themselves with the help of a major
non-profit, the Kettering Foundation, to learn more about public
deliberation and to promote it to their constituents and their fellow
legislators. This effort could make a tremendous difference and
I would really like [legislator] to take a lead in this. Please
ask him/her to contact the leader of this effort, Senator Les Ihara
of Hawaii at <senihara@Capitol.hawaii.gov>
to find out more about it. Also ask him to let me know what he thinks
of it." Give them your contact information.
ACTION STEP 3: Send that legislator an email that
says the same thing. It could say something like this:
I feel very strongly that our state legislature needs to get involved
in convening -- and listening to -- citizen deliberative activities.
Many very sophisticated methods for public deliberation exist,
which we should be using in [your state]. Hawaii State Senator
Les Ihara and several other state legislators are organizing themselves
with the help of a major non-profit, the Kettering Foundation,
to learn more about public deliberation and to promote it to their
constituents and their fellow legislators. This effort could make
a tremendous difference and I would really like to see you take
a leadership role in it, which I think would be quite popular
with voters. Please contact Senator Les Ihara at <senihara@Capitol.hawaii.gov>,
who is leading this effort, to find out more about it. Then let
me know what you think of it. Thank you ahead of time for looking
into this for all of us.
[your name, address
Feel free to vary the messages above -- which we've provided for
your convenience -- using the information below.
Note that what you're advocating here doesn't promote one side
of one issue but rather promotes better deliberation to integrate
all sides of every issue. So the kind of "lobbying" you're
doing for it constitutes a different kind of citizenship, a different
kind of activism, a way to nudge the whole system towards wiser
States legislatures -- most of whom are reeling from budget crises
and partisanship -- are fertile ground for citizen deliberation
initiatives right now. So now is a great time to move this ahead.
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS WHOLE INITIATIVE
Senator Les Ihara notes:
Public trust in government is alarmingly low and some legislators
think it's time to addressthe issue head on. The National Conference
of State Legislatures has been working with a group of state legislators
who are highly interested in connecting with citizens in more meaningful
ways. Looking at citizen forums, conflict resolution processes,
improved legislative hearings, civic education programs and other
options, this group is sharing best practices, advice and information
on how to improve the legislator-citizen connection. NCSL has two
grants to fund work in this area of citizen engagement and conflict
resolution, and this group of legislators is also examining legislator
and legislative staff suggestions on what kind of NCSL projects,
information and assistance would help legislatures.
Group moderators include: Bruce Feustel, NCSL Legislative Management;
Peggy Kerns, NCSL Center for Ethics In Government; and Hawaii Senator
Les Ihara, Jr.
In the next year, we seek to involve more legislators in the project...and
this is where you could help. If you know a state legislator who
supports involving citizens in legislative policy making, please
let me know. We plan to meet later this year with interested legislators,
and probably twice in 2005. Information on all 5,400 state legislators,
including email addresses, is available at
http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm and I encourage you
to increase your contacts with them. [CII Note: This link lists
all the legislators but doesn't help you find your own. Use <http://www.vote-smart.org>
to identify your reps.]
We've identified at least 27 legislators
who might be interested in this. Their names and emails are below.
Reinforcing encouragement could encourage their involvement.
I view state legislatures as a primary venue for public policy
discussions in a state, and want to encourage citizens to become
involved in public deliberations in their own state legislature.
A first step is for us to open up conversations with interested
legislators. I consider us partners in promoting open deliberation
of public policy issues, and appreciate the work we have in common.
LES IHARA, JR.
Hawaii State Senator
27 LEGISLATORS INTERESTED IN
R - Alabama / Representative Cam Ward / Camjulward@aol.com
R - Alaska / Senator Con Bunde / Senator_Con_Bunde@legis.state.ak.us
D - Arkansas D / Representative Joyce Elliott / email@example.com
D - Arkansas / Representative Mike Creekmore / firstname.lastname@example.org
R - Delaware / Senator Dori Connor / email@example.com
D - Hawaii / Senator Les Ihara, Jr. / firstname.lastname@example.org
D - Indiana / Representative Dennie Oxley / email@example.com
R - Maryland / Delegate Susan McComas / firstname.lastname@example.org
D - Maryland / Delegate Adrienne A. Mandel / Adrienne_Mandel@house.state.md.us
D - Massachusetts / Senator Richard T. Moore / email@example.com
DFL - Minnesota / Senator John Hottinger / Sen.firstname.lastname@example.org
D - Mississippi / Representative John Mayo / email@example.com
D - New Mexico / Senator Dede Feldman / firstname.lastname@example.org
R - North Carolina / Representative Louis M. Pate, Jr. / Louisp@ncleg.net
D - North Carolina / Representative Martha Alexander / email@example.com
R - Ohio / Representative Merle Grace Kearns / District72@ohr.state.oh.us
D - Ohio / Representative Larry Price / Larry.Price@ohr.state.oh.us
D - Ohio / Senator Tom Roberts / firstname.lastname@example.org
R - Pennsylvania / Representative David J. Steil / email@example.com
D - Pennsylvania / Representative Harold James / Hjames@pahouse.net
D - Tennessee / Representative Mark L. Maddox / firstname.lastname@example.org
D - Utah / Representative Ralph Becker / email@example.com
D - Vermont / Senator Ann E. Cummings / firstname.lastname@example.org
R - Virginia / Senator Emmett Hanger / email@example.com
D - Virginia / Senator R. Edward Houck / firstname.lastname@example.org
D - Washington /Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles / KOHL_JE@leg.wa.gov
D - Washington / Representative Velma Veloriz / email@example.com
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