Our opinion: A promising bipartisan beginning

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has done something that seems like a throwback to a quaint time we can barely remember.

It did its job.

More than that, after coming back into session following a lengthy break, the lawmakers got down to the business of making laws and not just playing politics. Sure, there was some politics. There always is. But a shocking amount of governing was done that transcended labels.

Four bills passed unanimously. Yes. Every single member looked at it and decided it was worth doing.

Sure, one of them was Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward’s bill to cover mammograms and screenings for breast and ovarian cancers. It’s very hard to oppose a bill like that. No one is pro cancer.

Legislators also took the high road in changing the language of the public school code to be more sensitive and inclusive of some of the individuals it serves – particularly those with disabilities and diagnoses that fall under mental health and development delays. That was unanimous, too.

Other bills didn’t pass with 100% support, but it is almost more inspiring to see honest bipartisan concession and debate on issues that aren’t as universally supported as “cancer is bad” and “be kind to disabled children.”

In all, eight bills passed with people from both parties agreeing there was merit in the ideas that were brought to the table.

What is tragic is that this is amazing. This should be the default. This should be so routine as to be boring. You looked at a proposal, discussed it, put it to a vote in committee, moved it forward to the body as a whole and came to a consensus? Congratulations. You understood the assignment.

But that understanding is something we must applaud when it happens because it happens so seldom anymore. Too often, we see such a deeply partisan divide that it would not be surprising to see half the Legislature – or the Congress – burn to death because the other side said the building was on fire.

The razor-thin Democratic majority in the House could do one of two things. It could grind the process to a halt and make everything so blatantly partisan that nothing gets accomplished. We have definitely seen that happen in many levels of government in recent years.

But the other outcome – the one every lawmaker should strive to achieve – is to remember the purpose of a bicameral legislative body and the separate powers of government.

It is about listening, negotiating, compromising and setting aside the fight in favor of the solution.

It’s only May. There is still time for this to to devolve into political business as usual.

Let’s hope the lawmakers realize there is more to be gained by everyone in working together.


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