RALEIGH, N.C. — A group of young lawmakers are banding together to address issues important to millennials and to try to engage younger North Carolinians in the political and legislative process.
"It's tremendously important that people who will be the future of this state have ownership in what we're doing," said Rep. Chaz Beasley, D-Mecklenburg, a co-chairman of the North Carolina Future Caucus.
The group, which many have already dubbed the "millennial caucus," is open to all state lawmakers under age 45. The four founding members said there are about a dozen more members of the General Assembly who could join.
"This is not about a strict millennial age for membership, it's more a mindset," said Steve Olikara, co-founder and president of the Millennial Action Project, a nonprofit that has helped organize similar caucuses in the U.S. House and 20 states. "We want to build a coalition as wide as we can and not limit people from getting involved."
Olikara said most millennials are disaffected with government – polls show fewer than a third are open to a career in public service – because of the bitter partisanship that has often led to inaction in recent years.
"It's important for millennials, before we re-engage them in the process, to show that the process is there for them," Olikara said, adding that the N.C. Future Caucus "can be the adults in the room" by showing how bipartisan efforts can find solutions to important issues.
"The caucus gives us an open dialogue," said Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes, predicting Democrats and Republicans could work together on issues such as teacher salaries, classroom funding and tax reform.
"Young citizens will define the course of the rest of the 21st century, and we want to be part of the conversation with them," said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, citing student loan debt and early childhood education as important issues for millennials.
In addition to Beasley, Hall and Chaudhuri, Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, is a founding member and co-chairman of the caucus.