Will it be known as Pax Republica -- the great Republican peace?

On the heals of Gov. Mike Leavitt's veto Wednesday of five bills passed by the 1999 Legislature, GOP legislative leaders say they may disagree with some of those vetoes but overall believe they got along very well the governor, Democrats and fellow Republicans.And the major reason for the lack of controversy in January and February's general session -- the mildest in 20 years -- is a change in thinking and action.

"We've found a model," says House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton. "A way of doing things that worked well in the 1999 session and we think can work well again."

That model is one of moderation, cooperation with the minority Democrats and a search "for the middle ground" on controversial issues.

It also includes getting out front on those issues, setting up working teams of House and Senate members well before the session starts that often meet privately with various interested parties to seek acceptable concessions from all sides.

The model bypasses traditional vehicles, like setting up legislative task forces that meet regularly in public and monthly interim legislative study committees, which also meet publicly.

The model, says Garn, worked well in settling the very-public bank/credit union controversy in the 1999 session and the not-so-public but very political growth issue, as well.

Who would have thought, for example, that the bank/credit union bill would literally fly through the House and Senate with little debate and almost no controversy?

Remember, this was an issue well staked out by the two sides. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on TV and radio commercials, local celebrities and regular citizens were filmed giving their sides of the issue for the advertising spots.

A citizen initiative was quickly circulated by credit union supporters, thousands of voter signatures gathered and sent to the Legislature.

A public hearing on Capitol Hill early in the session drew so many people that the State Office Building auditorium couldn't hold them all.

But then, using the model Garn describes, private meetings off Capitol Hill between the banks and credit unions brought results. A compromise was quietly reached (the news media didn't learn of it until just hours before the compromise bill was circulated on Capitol Hill), and what looked like the biggest fight of the 1999 session just fluttered away in "yea" votes by the 104 legislators.

Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, predicts that the 2000, 2001 and future legislatures will be similarly smooth, well-oiled machines.

"You won't see the kind of controversies you've seen in the past," he recently confided to a reporter. The 45-day sessions will be efficient; maybe even boring, he said.

Garn doesn't go that far. There will be times where Republicans and Democrats will disagree publicly, with partisan positions staked out. But those can be kept to a minimum, Garn believes, leaving the really ugly partisan fights for November elections, not January committee hearings.

Says Garn: "The only really partisan fight we had (in the 1999 Legislature) was the public attorneys bill" -- the GOP-backed measure that would take away civil legal authority from the attorney general and elected county attorneys, giving that responsibility to the governor and county commissions.

While heated at times, once that debate was rushed through the House and Senate by the majority Republicans on an expedited track, the 1999 session reverted to mostly-bipartisan work -- exemplified by passage of the Quality Growth Act.

Democrats actually played a part in drafting and passing that act -- which could become the landmark piece of legislation the 1999 Legislature is remembered for.

When it became clear that Democrats were gearing up to make growth a major political issue for the 1999 session and 2000 elections, Garn, Rep. Susan Koehn, R-Woods Cross, and other Republicans quietly invited the Democrats on board.

Democrats jumped at the chance -- salivating at the opportunity to actually impact policy.

But is it wise politics for the Democrats to join? How can they slap Republicans at election time if they helped make state policy in the first place?

And are moderate Republicans exposing themselves to badgering by their party's right wing for inviting Democrats to the table?

"I thought a lot about (the political aspects) of all this" working with Democrats, seeking broad compromises, says Garn. "And I think with what's gone on in Washington, D.C., how partisan that process has become back there, Utahns want us to work together (in the Legislature) to solve problems, not bicker."

The political implications of the "model" are not lost on House Minority Leader Dave Jones, D-Salt Lake, either.

"If legislative sessions are relatively controversy-free, the public may well ask why they should change the majority party up there, that everything's fine. That's the risk we (Democrats) face," says Jones.

But Democratic lawmakers have taken a specific course, says Jones. "We had to ask ourselves: Are we up there to make a difference? Or are we up there to make noise? We want policy changes. Our role is to be a gadfly, to raise questions and to suggest alternatives. We can do (political partisanship) in the elections.

"Don't misunderstand. We won't be quiet. We'll stand up and argue principles. But we also want to work in a bipartisan effort -- and we did that, especially in the Growth Act -- this year, and the result was stronger for it."

Finally, says Jones, there are times when moderate Republicans and Leavitt just can't get the votes out of their conservative wing to pass something on their own.

"I don't think they could have gotten the Growth Act without Democrats. They certainly couldn't have gotten CHIPS (the new federal program for poor children's health insurance) without us last year."