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Project Supporting the Legislator-Citizen Connection

I’m back from my not-so-relaxing “vacation” and ready to blog. Lots of exciting things to share…

First, please look over this important message from Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara, who’s a huge advocate for getting policymakers to embrace D&D. If you know a state legislator who supports involving citizens in policymaking, please let Les know (email senihara@Capitol.hawaii.gov). You’re also encouraged to let your state legislators know about the session Les is presenting at next week’s Nat’l Conference of State Legislatures called “Strengthening the Legislator-Citizen Connection.” Click below for Les’ email to the NCDD network.

To NCDD and others:

I am still formulating a proposal for the October conference of NCDD (National Coalition of Deliberation and Dialogue) to promote increased deliberative activities among citizens and state legislators, but wanted to share a related project and invite your participation in it. The project started recently with signing of a 3-year agreement between The Kettering Foundation and National Conference of State Legislatures.

The project is focused on the legislator/public relationship, and is exploring ways to support state legislatures’ ability to engage citizens in public policy deliberations, and encouraging citizen deliberative activity in the legislative arena. My vision is seeing citizens actively involved in public policy deliberations in state legislatures. Developing a range of examples at first and, ultimately, evolving the culture of legislative bodies — where the public is fundamental to the legislative process, and legislatures are models for the practice of democracy.

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, are available at http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm and I encourage you to increase your contacts with them.

I also have a specific action-opportunity for you. Next week, 1,000 legislators will meet in Salt Lake City for the 2004 annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures [www.ncsl.org]. This is an opportunity for other legislators to become involved in the project, and we’ve scheduled a meeting on July 22 for this purpose. See “Strengthening the Legislator-Citizen Connection” session description below. If you know any legislator on the attached MS Word document of NCSL attendees, please encourage them to attend this meeting. Sorry no email addresses; but they’re on the web.

Of expected NCSL conference attendees, we’ve identified 27 legislators who might be interested in meeting with us. I will email them information on the July 22 meeting, but reinforcing encouragement could increase attendance. If you want to send an email to those legislators in your state, see the attached MS Excel document.

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. Thank you.

LES IHARA, JR.
Hawaii State Senator
http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/ihara-bio.asp
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Strengthening the Legislator-Citizen Connection * Ancillary Group Session
* NCSL Annual Meeting * Salt Lake City UT * July 22, 2004 (Thursday) *
4:00-5:00 pm, Salt Palace Convention Center #151-F (Lower Level)

Public trust in government is alarmingly low and some legislators think it’s time to address the issue head on. NCSL 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 holding an annual meeting ancillary session to share 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 session will also examine legislator and legislative staff suggestions on what kind of NCSL projects, information and assistance would help legislatures.

This session is open to any member of the citizen engagement working group or any legislator or legislative staffer interested in the topic. Grant funding provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kettering Foundation. Session moderators will include: Bruce Feustel, NCSL Legislative Management; Peggy Kerns, NCSL Center for Ethics In Government; and Hawaii Senator Les Ihara, Jr.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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