THE CURRENT ERA OF AMERICAN POLITICS IS OFTEN LAMENTED AS EXCESSIVELY PARTISAN, IDEOLOGICAL, AND RANCOROUS. And Texas politics has often held its own in those regards. But to many observers, the recently completed 2013 Texas legislative session stands as a welcome—and surprising—exception to modern political dysfunction. These observers have struggled to describe the session, using long-idled terms such as civil, collaborative, workmanlike, and even—gasp—bipartisan. For the most part, the 2013 Texas Legislature avoided ideological and partisan warfare and focused on constructively addressing major policy challenges facing the state.
Two main factors contributed to this relative congeniality and productivity. First, many legislators arrived in Austin with a diminished appetite for conflict. They were still exhausted from the painful 2011 legislative session, which was driven by partisan battles over budget cuts, redistricting, and immigration. During their election campaigns they heard many voters complaining about the partisan warfare and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and as a result, in 2013 legislators filed and pushed far fewer bills on controversial partisan topics, and many such bills stalled early in the committee process. For example, the divisive issues of redistricting and abortion were largely avoided during the regular session, mercifully postponed to be fought out in summer special sessions once the Legislature’s main business had been completed.
Originally published in Vol. 76, No. 8 of the Texas Bar Journal - September 2013.
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