We've written in the past about the need for bipartisanship.
We're glad someone has gotten the message.
At a recent News-Herald Media editorial board meeting, state Assembly representatives Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, John Spiros, R-Marshfield, and Scott Krug, R-Rome, shared how Republican leaders in the Assembly have set the tone for bipartisanship.
An important part has been to establish rules for the Assembly - and follow them. This framework outlines how sessions are conducted, how each side is allowed to talk and even when lawmakers will meet.
While some of these changes have been startling for long-term members - meetings starting at the time set - it's been welcomed by most, especially new members, such as Spiros.
The goal is to better conduct the state's business in the light of day. Too often, it seems, meetings or hearings started hours late, and often went late into the night. Now, lawmakers intend to do business during times when constituents can attend. That's an important step in the right direction.
Setting up rules helps keep everyone on the same page. It only makes sense to set the ground rules. It will make it clear for everyone how business will be conducted, what the expectations are and how everything will work.
And since both Democrats and Republicans had a say in creating the rules, they will be more likely to stick with them. Besides, it's a common sense approach, and we're surprised the Legislature didn't take it a long time ago.
This new tone has been freeing for both parties - or so it would seem from these lawmakers' perspectives. Previously, amendments might not have gotten much discussion, because neither side wanted to give time to the other. Now, knowing there is time for each side to talk has allowed greater discussion and debate - which should be the goal.
Aside from the rules, Democrats and Republicans have made strides to get to know each other on a personal level. This session, a bipartisan inauguration ceremony was held, for the first time ever. Representatives are getting to know the concerns in each other's districts, which often will go beyond party lines and provide a bond for Democrats and Republicans.
Suder, who is the majority leader and in his seventh term in the State Assembly, said in the previous two-year session, 95 percent of the bills were bipartisan in nature. The ones that weren't - think Act 10 - were divisive. Lawmakers wanted to start this session on a different note.
"We want to make sure we're talking," Suder said. "That's what people expect. That's what people want."
Krug said one controversial issue changed the tone for the whole session in the previous two years. With the new rules change, "The tone is so much different this session," he said.
Freshman Spiros has found people will reach across the table, and people from both parties will share ideas. "It's been fresh," he said.
He's right. It is refreshing to hear about these changes. We commend the leadership for taking a step in this direction, and we look forward to what this legislative session holds.