Want To Pass Bills In The Texas Legislature? Try Bipartisanship.

07/25/2017 07:42 am ET Updated Jul 26, 2017

Is bipartisanship dead? A quick look at the Texas Legislature and you might think so. On the last day of the most recent legislative session, what started as partisan tensions over immigration reform eventually dissolved into a House floor shoving and shouting match between Democratic and Republican lawmakers. In such a legislature, it’s no wonder that bipartisanship seems in short supply these days.

But for lawmakers looking to get things done, research shows that giving up on bipartisanship is the wrong move, especially for legislators attempting to pass bills in certain policy areas. In their new report, “Bipartisan Boost: What Policy Buckets Can Reveal About Effective Legislating”, Glasshouse Policy ran the numbers from the latest Texas legislative session and found that bipartisanship, in the form of shared bill authorship, may be one of the most effective tools to pass bills in the Texas legislature.

Overview and Analysis

After analyzing the 6,000+ bills filed with the Texas Legislature in the 85th session, we found that bills with bipartisan authorship passed at much higher rates than bills authored by members of a single party despite the fact that bipartisan bills were filed far less often than partisan bills.

In this regard, the data speak for themselves. Although only 18 percent of bills filed in the 85th session were bipartisan, 45 percent of bills signed into law were bipartisan. Overall, bipartisan bills were about 4.5 times more likely to pass than partisan bills in the 85th session, and on average, bipartisan bill passage rates were about 30 percentage points higher than those of partisan bills.

Policy Bucket Analysis

Diving deeper into the data, we sorted the bills by policy subject matter into “policy buckets” using information from the Texas Legislature’s website. From here, we were able to show that the impact of bipartisan authorship varied greatly by policy bucket.

Looking at the data, it’s clear that some policy categories benefited from a “bipartisan boost” more so than other categories. In some policy buckets, bills with bipartisan support passed at much higher rates than those with only partisan support. In other policy buckets, the difference between bipartisan and partisan bills was less pronounced. However, the overall concept of the bipartisan boost was universal; the success rates of bills in every policy bucket increased when there was bipartisan authorship.

Four policy buckets in particular - Welfare and Poverty, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Senior Issues, and Immigration - saw bipartisan-authored bills with passage rates that soared above other policy buckets. In these categories, bipartisan bills experienced passage rates around 40-60 percentage points higher than partisan bills in the same categories.

Key Takeaways

All in all, it’s no secret that lawmakers are often criticized for a failure to get things done and an inability to work across party lines. Bipartisan authorship offers a solution to both issues, and the data from the 85th session show the policy buckets in which this tactic might prove the most effective.

It’s also worth mentioning that the bipartisan bills passed in the 85th session included serious, high-profile issues, such as HB 100, a bill that created a statewide system for regulating ride-hailing companies and overrode several local rules.

As Texas Legislators enter into the second week of its special session, they face an agenda filled with controversial, highly partisan issues ranging from bathroom bills to school finance reforms to abortion bills. For lawmakers looking to get things done in this session and beyond, it’s clear that bipartisan authorship, especially for bills in certain policy categories, offers a constructive way forward.

Additional information can be found in the Glasshouse Policy report, “Bipartisan Boost: What Policy Buckets Can Reveal About Effective Legislating”. Please contact Sara Meadow at sara@glasshousepolicy.org with any questions.

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