Several Issues Draw Bipartisan Support
Some call it strange political bedfellows, others see it as Texas Teamwork. It's a spirit of bipartisanship seen in Austin this legislative session. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in the Texas Legislature are teaming up on several bills, especially relating to government transparency and accountability. Two of the most prominent bi-partisan bills are HB 524, which would require lawmakers to disclose any government contracts held by themselves or family members; and HB 160, aimed at Governor Rick Perry's failed run for the White House, which would mandate that state officials who seek higher office reimburse the state for the cost of their security detail. Longtime Texas political observer Harvey Kronberg, publisher the Quorum Report, says transparency is an issue that's easy for all politicians to get behind. "It's no secret that the public right now is disgusted with politicians and believes, generally speaking, that there is a lot of self-dealing going on."
Having covered Texas politics for 30 years, Kronberg says there is generally more bipartisanship here than in Washington, D.C. "Probably only about 15 percent of what the Legislature does in Texas has a strong partisan component to it," he tells KTRH. Kronberg explains that the demographics of the Lone Star State often make geography more important than political philosophy or party affiliation. "You'll frequently find that a Republican from rural West Texas has more in common with a Democrat from rural South Texas than with suburban Republicans outside of Houston," he says.
Kronberg also points out that transparency isn't the only issue that unites Texans of all political stripes. "In Texas, we're more concerned with roads, water, electricity," he says. "And these are not issues that are driven by partisan politics." Indeed, this session has also seen broad agreement on legislation relating to funding water and road projects, changing standardized school testing, and easing restrictions on craft brewers. That doesn’t mean it's all love and peace in Austin. Strong party divisions still exist on issues like school vouchers, voter ID laws, and whether or not the state should accept federal Medicare funds under the health care law commonly known as “Obamacare.”