Understated Bipartisanship Drives Progress in Harrisburg
Folks don’t see or hear about very many “win-win” stories when it comes to politics.
This, of course, leads folks to believe nothing gets done in government to benefit the average person. It deeply polarizes voters to the point where the “other side” isn’t just wrong, it is evil — supporting the belief that there is total gridlock and nothing gets done.

The truth is that most legislation passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly is done so with healthy bipartisan majorities.

In total, 2,583 bills were introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session. Of those, 582 bills passed the House and 558 (96 percent) were bipartisan. Another 350 of them (60 percent) were unanimous. Nearly half of them — 276 — were signed into law.

Sadly, 96 percent of what the public hears is about 4 percent of the bills. Why is it a surprise, or a bad thing, that Democrats and Republicans would have legitimate policy differences on 4 percent of the bills we consider?

Consider the House Education Committee, a panel that considers legislation on everything from addressing school violence to equitable education funding, and from labor union issues to school choice. It would seem tailor-made for bitter partisanship, especially with the majority chair being a Lancaster Republican and minority chair a Philadelphia Democrat.

Yet they found a way to work together this past session, not only getting along well in public meetings but delivering bipartisan results to make positive changes. More than 85 percent of the bills were reported unanimously, including a bipartisan package of career and technical education bills to closer match graduates to currently available jobs.

That was not hard. Simply look at what our education system is producing and then look at what our employers need.

We passed a bipartisan bill in the House and the Senate to offer struggling dairy producers other farming options to prevent bankruptcies and foreclosures.

The formula is quite simple: Convince your colleagues that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Then convince them that your solution is the best one.

Intentions — often the rhetoric that fills headlines — are not where we need to start a debate. We need to look at what a proposed “solution” would look like when it is implemented and begins to affect folks in “Sometown” Pennsylvania, far away from the debate floor.

Most of us want to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do what is best for the people who sent us to Harrisburg to represent them.

The real news story is that bipartisanship is alive and well, working hard to solve problems for Pennsylvanians from all walks of life.

(Note: These statistics include House and Senate bills that were voted on in final passage in the House. The statistics do not include a vote on a bill that passed the House and then went to the Senate and came back in a substantially different form.)
This op-ed was co-authored by fellow Republicans Rep. Bryan Cutler, of Peach Bottom (100th District), who is now the state House majority leader; Rep. Mindy Fee, of Manheim (37th District); Rep. Keith Greiner, of Upper Leacock (43rd); Rep. Dave Hickernell, of West Donegal (98th); Rep. Steve Mentzer, of Lititz (97th)); Rep. Brett Miller, of East Hempfield (41st); and Rep. Dave Zimmerman, of East Earl (99th)