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February 21, 2006

Negotiator-in-Chief

Chris Gregoire is putting her ace negotiation skills to work as governor, just recently resolving two critical issues that have been stuck for decades - 1) the Columbia River Water Resource Management Legislation and 2) the medical malpractice agreement forged as part of the passage of HB2292. 

The water management bill passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Legislature last week breaks a 30-year impasse.  Governor Gregoire asked House and Senate leaders from both parties to appoint members to a Columbia River Task Force to study the long-standing water management stalemate on the Columbia River a year ago.   

The resulting bill commits to developing new storage and water conservation projects on the Columbia River, provides a formula for allocating newly stored water, and creates mechanisms for jumpstarting conservation measures and improving current management operations on the Columbia River.  One-third of all newly stored water will be allocated to support stream flows for fish.  Two-thirds of newly stored water will be available for new out-of stream water uses, such as farming, industry and municipal growth.

"The gridlock is broken," Governor Gregoire said. "For 30 years, people have been wrangling over the best way to support the water needs of eastern Washington, and protect and restore our native salmon runs on the Columbia River.  Now we have a road map towards achieving those goals.  We broke through the stalemate because of the respectful consensus we built among our partners, who include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, our tribal neighbors, farmers, environmental groups and communities up and down the Columbia River."

The Ecology Department's website has additional information.

Gregoire was also pretty obviously responsible for breaking the impasse between lawyers and doctors in regard to medical malpractice which became a big issue with the costly competing initiatives on the ballot last year, neither of which passed.  This year both house of the legislature are preparing to pass HB2292 which addresses health care liability reform. Gregoire herself praised the other players - the Washington State Hospital Association, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, Physicians Insurance, Washington State Bar Association and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.  The Olympian reports:

"They have been committed.  They have been professional. . . . They have exercised absolute good faith in every aspect of our negotiations from the very beginning." the governor said.  "This in my opinion is a very good example of what can be accomplished when we work together.  Compromise can be achieved on very difficult issues.  And while we come together today, I am mindful that much of this is being attempted in many states around the country and is not succeeding."

The Olympian goes on:

Most everyone else gave credit to the Democratic governor, whose history of negotiating big settlements includes the $206 billion national tobacco lawsuit settlement in 1998 and a clean-up agreement with the federal government dealing with nuclear waste at Hanford — both of which she engineered while serving as state attorney general. Last year as governor, she brokered a gasoline tax package in the Legislature’s final days, and last week she won passage of a major water-use agreement for the Columbia River.

“I think what happened was the governor basically took those interests and brought them into the room and got the politics out of this. That is how this thing came about,” Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham, said.

So, how did she do it?  Well, one thing, she worked very hard at it. From the same article:

The negotiations, which began roughly 45 days ago, involved 10 separate meetings between the parties, and in five of them, Gregoire herself presided. All told, close to 25 or 30 hours of talks took place, half led by Gregoire and half by her special aide, Lucy Isaki.

A few more enormous wins like this and we'll find that Republican legislators will join with Democrats and business and labor to stump for her in 2008. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 21, 2006 at 06:55 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Nice way to knit the threads together. Leadership is about getting people to the table to work out their differences.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Feb 23, 2006 10:46:51 PM

I posted a diary on this over on Washblog a few days ago. The interesting thing to me about the water agreement is not only that this Gov brings the skills to the table but is clearly motivated toward delving into topics like this which have eluded an agreement for so long. Lock for instance never applied himself in this area.
This Gov also keeps her word when a deal is a deal regardless of which party is having their position eroded. One example of this occurred soon after this agreement was reached when the Senate began altering the terms and when Morton sought her help, the Gov pulled things back together. Creating a safe environment for the legitimate interests on a given issue where they will be supported so long as they do not undermine the agreement is key to making things happen.

Posted by: Particle Man | Feb 24, 2006 12:07:48 PM

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