Bipartisanship in Texas: A Critical Model for National Politics

Jordan Zavareei

On one of the first days of my Government Relations internship at Minaret Foundation, I was tasked with researching bills authored or sponsored by key Republican state legislators in the most recent prior legislative session. 

One of our organization’s advocacy projects—the support of a bill intended to increase the safety of both law enforcement officers and young students in public schools—demanded vetting potential sponsors in the legislature. As this advocacy project would require bipartisan support. I was looking for Republicans who had a history of supporting the public school system or measures to protect children from violence. 

In searching for past bills relating to public schools and the protection of children, I inevitably stumbled upon a great deal of other legislative efforts that took place in the most recent past legislature.

Defying Expectations – Healthcare

As an outsider to Texas state politics, I was surprised at the unique conglomerate of policy stances held by politicians like Republican State Representative Sam Harless. Harless promoted traditionally conservative values such as lowering taxes and securing pro-life legislation, but he also had political positions uncharacteristic of the typical establishment Republican. 

Harless stands firm in his commitment to affordable healthcare and stellar public education. For instance, in the previous legislative session, Harless co-authored a bill to enhance maternal and newborn healthcare, specifically for Medicaid recipients. He also supported public school teachers by co-authoring a bill that would add over $500 million to the teacher retirement fund. 

Harless’ identity as a politician has seemed to form around his support for such legislation. On his website, in the first description of his work since assuming office, it reads: “Sam was instrumental in passing several bills that focused on improving public education and making healthcare more accessible and affordable.” Harless does not shy away on his policy stances regarding healthcare and public education; instead, he uses these stances to develop his brand as a politician. 

Defying Expectations – Law Enforcement

Most intriguing, perhaps, is Harless’s unique approach to supporting law enforcement in Texas. His support of law enforcement most often comes in protecting victims of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Harless co-authored a bill designed to improve the statewide policies and practices regarding the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of sexual assault and other sex offenses.