Minnesota Historical Society

Finding Common Ground

$ 16.95


The Art of Legislating in an Age of Gridlock

Author Dave Bishop, Foreword by Lori Sturdevant, Afterword by John Hughes

Minnesota Historical Society Press (December 1, 2015)

A pragmatic guide to the legislative process, with proven techniques for legislating from the minority side of the aisle—and powerful insights on how collaboration makes for better lawmaking.


Democracy has never been a quick or easy process by which to get things done. But many citizens are fed up with the current, extreme partisan gridlock at the national, state, and even local levels of government.

Dave Bishop spent most of his twenty years in the Minnesota House of Representatives as a member of the Republican minority, but that did not stop him from winning passage of legislation that benefited his district. In Finding Common Ground, he shares proven techniques and insightful examples of how minority members can gain the power to produce better laws and a healthier democracy.

Bishop reveals the inside stories of major Minnesota legislation through the 1980s and 1990s—the lottery, groundwater protection, the Living Will, the Northwest Airlines bailout, and much more—showing how real work can be done through respectful, healthy confrontation and compromise.

This concise handbook is a gift not just for policymakers but also for their constituents who are interested in effective and ethical legislating. Finding Common Ground provides a deeper understanding of the legislative process as well as greater respect for the complex work of legislators and legislatures.

Author information

Dave Bishop served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1983 to 2002 as a Republican representative from Rochester.

Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant is the author of, among other books, Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women's Movement.

John Hughes, formerly a reporter for the Rochester Post-Bulletin, is editor for Bloomberg News's First Word and president of the National Press Club.

Reviews and news

In the Media:

"It’s the rare insider-y tome that’s also a lively read, mainly because Bishop has a point beyond mere retelling of old war (and peace) stories. He brings the same pragmatic approach he used at the Capitol in getting bills passed to the task of making his sentences serve his purpose: guiding the reader in the ways, disciplines and joys of working across the aisle.

In Finding Common Ground, Bishop marshals stories of legislative efforts on which he labored into a dozen case studies. They range from successes small and large — including local tax authority to fund flood control in Rochester, the state lottery and the bailout for Northwest Airlines — to failures including a motorcycle helmet requirement and a vasectomy waiting period intended to match a proposed abortion waiting period (a bill he terms a 'tease')."
Politics in Minnesota

Rochester Post-Bulletin

Advance Praise:

“Legislating is a creative and dynamic process involving values, judgments, trade-offs, personalities, turf, drama, and more. Dave Bishop navigated all of it with charm, flair, intelligence, and dogged persistence. Anyone who cares about the legislative process will benefit from reading this book.”
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

“Dave Bishop’s book should be required reading for all legislators. He is right—severe partisanship does threaten the very nature of democratic government. His concentration on details like humor, persistence, bill wording, and vote counting, with historic examples, is priceless.”
Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn

Finding Common Ground is a refreshing antidote to our current era of ideological and partisan gridlock in government. Dave Bishop provides vivid instruction about the importance and utility of legislative pragmatism. It’s a vital lesson too often overlooked by a cynical public, political activists, and a media that overplays conflict and scandal.”
Steven E. Schier, Congdon Professor of Political Science, Carleton College

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 176 pages
  • 7 B&W Illustrations, Notes, Index
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873519793

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