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Update on the U.S. Consensus Council

Rob Fersh sent us an update on the USCC on January 8, 2004. Despite Congress’ approval of a $1 million appropriation for establishment of the USCC, we are still waiting for the authorizing legislation to pass. When legislation is passed – and I’m confident that it will be! – the USCC will serve Congress in promoting consensus-based solutions to important national legislative policy issues. The USCC’s role will be to convene diverse stakeholders on a particular issue and build agreements among them that reflect “win/win”, highest common denominator solutions. Click the link below for Rob’s full email.

Dear Friends of the USCC,

Best wishes for the new year.

This is the first update to our friends in many months, delayed in part because we thought good news that never quite arrived was imminent. Here is a brief status report.

Authorizing Legislation
We continue to work hard for passage of legislation to authorize the USCC. The bill, S. 908, currently is pending on the Senate floor, where we hope it will be considered this year on the unanimous consent calendar. S. 908 was unanimously reported out of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on July 22, 2003. In early November, working closely with the staff of our lead sponsor Senator Susan Collins, we resolved concerns of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles. We continue to work now to schedule the bill for consideration by the full Senate and from there will work for passage of the House companion bill, H.R. 2459. We remain optimistic legislation will pass this year.

Appropriations
Earlier in 2003, Congress approved a $1 million appropriation for the USCC as part of the conference report to the FY 2003 omnibus appropriations bill. This funding was subject to the passage of authorizing legislation, which has not yet occurred.

USCC Task Force
The U.S. Consensus Council Task Force, co-chaired by Marc Racicot and Dan Glickman, continues to be actively advocate for the establishment of the USCC. We are in regular consultation with many members of the Task Force, who have assisted with legislative strategy, fundraising, and media promotion.

Media
Through the efforts of Task Force member Chris Harte, a highly favorable editorial on the USCC appeared in the Maine Press Herald on November 30, 2003. A copy is attached. Earlier this year, the USCC was featured in an hour-long public television program This is America with Dennis Wholey. That show provides a wonderful explanation of the USCC and its potential. Tapes of the entire show and 10 minutes of highlights are available.

PCPAC
We are nearing completion of a set of draft policies and procedures designed to guide the operation of the USCC once authorized by law. Project Deputy Director Steve Lee has capably spearheaded this work, relying heavily upon input from our Policy Consensus Professionals Advisory Committee (PCPAC). The PCPAC last met as group in April 2003.

Pro bono legal assistance
The Washington office of the law firm Blank Rome has formally agreed to provide pro bono assistance with the processes of incorporation and establishing tax exempt status once authorizing legislation for the USCC is approved. We continue to receive generous pro bono assistance on other aspects of this project from the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld.

ACR
The USCC was featured in several presentations at the Association for Conflict Resolution Conference in Orlando, Florida this past October. We remain grateful for the widespread support for the USCC from the conflict resolution community generally and from ACR in particular.

Funding
We are grateful to have had generous support for this project in the past year from the Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Stephen Distler and Roxanne Kendall, and the Spicewood Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. Prior funders of the project include the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, Dennis Berman, the Microsoft Corporation, and the Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation. We currently are raising funds to support our work in 2004.

We hope 2004 will be the year when the USCC is finally established. We have made every effort to advocate for the USCC in a manner consistent with our underlying values and beliefs, and we will continue to do so. It has been a fascinating process, since we are stakeholders who are advocating a particular position (creation of the USCC), yet also pursuing our goals in as non-adversarial a way as possible. We hope that in the coming months the very establishment of the USCC can serve as a model for the successful use of cooperative approaches to public policy.

Thank you for your continued interest in this project. We welcome your ideas, assistance and encouragement.

Regards,

Rob

Robert J. Fersh
Director, National Consensus Initiative
Search for Common Ground
1601 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 201
Washington, D.C. 20009
+1 (202) 777-2229
rfersh@sfcg.org
www.usconsensuscouncil.org

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher is the Founding Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute, and also serves as a Research Deputy for the Kettering Foundation. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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