They say we’re the most partisan electorate in a generation. But it hasn’t always been that way in our houses of Congress and our state Senate chambers. Cross-party relationships have spurred myriad legislation. Just today the New York Times published a video on Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney’s unorthodox partnership. One of the best examples of Democrats and Republicans coming together is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, later named the McCain-Feingold Bill after its spearheaders, Russ Feingold and John McCain.
Texas, a state known for its tough-on-crime position, has benefited from the work of two legislators crossing the ideological divide. State Sen. John Whitmire of the 15th district had long been an advocate of prison reform in the state. So when State Rep. Jerry Madden of the 67th district heeded Governor Rick Perry’s declaration that he wanted no new prisons built, the two created an unlikely coalition.
We chronicle this story and that of the reentry court system these two individuals have been able to set up for non-violent offenders to get out of jail and into rehabilitation programs. It’s a remarkable story both of bipartisan efforts but also of the power to alter the course of so many lives in the process.
Tell us, what do you think is the root cause of overcrowding in our prisons? What other issues could benefit from a bipartisan effort?