BY: TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
As this Legislative Session hurtles towards its end, committee agendas have been miles long, special meetings have been called, and floor sessions will continue to last late into the night.
The compromises that people are willing to make to keep their bills alive and moving forward become drastic and this is seen as a necessary part of the game.
When I think about compromise, I’m often tempted to think about it as a process in which both sides give up a part of what they want in order to find a solution that both can live with.
In this scenario, as with so many aspects of our legislative process, those with differing opinions are understood to be adversaries. Each bill has support and opposition and so often conversations are construed with only these two options.
So what happens when compromises have to happen in the context of a process that forces people into adversarial positions?
And how does that change when the legislative system is placed under the enormous pressure of 55 counties worth of striking teachers?
When the conference committee met early this week to deliberate the 5% raise deal offered by the House and the Governor, positions were set. Senate leadership had doubled down on their position so many times, that they couldn’t agree to a 5% raise without putting themselves in a position of having “lost” the fight.
Professional mediators are taught to do their best to prevent those engaged in disagreements from positioning themselves this way, because once a position in which one side feels like they are “losing” is taken, the chances of achieving a successful agreement drop drastically.
Throughout the course of the strike, they were likely anticipating a traditional style compromise in the vein of, “You say 5%, we say 3%, everyone agrees on 4%.”
Because teachers held the line on 5%, because of the intense pressure placed on them to come to an agreement, legislators were forced to break free from the traditional two-sided mindset that they were operating under and find a third option.
In this case, Senate leadership identified budget cuts that they could present along with the 5% raise that would allow them to accomplish their objectives of getting to a balanced budget, while giving teachers the deal that had been brokered. Voila, both sides win.
Without expressing an opinion on the budget cuts that were passed, I’d like to suggest that this kind of third option is almost always available, but in this case it took thousands of striking teachers, two weeks, and the eyes of a nation for legislators to find it.
Why are we consistently seeing policy discussions as ones in which one side has to lose and one needs to win?
What would happen if we looked for the third option first?
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