LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) — Two Arkansas lawmakers, one Democrat and one Republican, came together Thursday (Dec. 14) at the Clinton School of Public Service to form a bipartisan caucus that is part of a national alliance to address issues important to millennials.
Reps. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, and James Sturch, R-Batesville, both said they joined hands to form the new Arkansans Future Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators ages 45 and under who will make Arkansas the 20th state to join Millennial Action Project’s (MAP) national State Future Caucus Network.
Started in 2013, MAP is a “national movement” of young elected officials who are looking to break through partisan gridlock, to re-establish political cooperation, and create meaningful progress through government institutions, said Steven Olikara, founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.
Sabin, 41, said he became interested in MAP several years after meeting organizers Olikara and Cherisse Eatmon, and learned of the group’s work to bring together the energy and ideas of young legislators and policymakers from Generation X, or so-called millennials, which is defined as Americans born between 1980 and 2000.
“They’ve built this organization nationwide in really impressive fashion,” Sabin said. “And their goal has been to capture the energy of the millennial generation to try to bring a new approach to politics here in the United States, which is something that I think we desperately need.”
Sabin, who represents Arkansas House District 33 in Little Rock and recently announced plans to join the Little Rock’s mayoral race in 2018, said he hopes the newly-created legislative caucus can bring a novel and innovative approach to the legislative process at the Arkansas General Assembly.
“The millennial generation in particular is really focused on problem-solving. They are probably the generation that is least interested in partisanship in many, many decades here in the U.S.,” Sabin said during a news conference.
“And I know that Rep. Sturch and I come from different political parties here in Arkansas, but we both are committed to problem-solving and working together in a bipartisan fashion to address all the issues that our state is facing.”
The 26-year old Sturch agreed. He hopes the Arkansas Future Caucus will operate similarly to other legislative coalitions at the State Capitol by unifying millennial lawmakers on legislation that impact younger Arkansans, and on issues that younger lawmakers may have better insight.
The minimum age to be elected to a seat in the Arkansas House and Senate is 21- and 25-years old, respectively.
Sturch joined the Arkansas legislature two years ago at age 24, and there are more than 30 Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the state General Assembly the caucus hopes to engage, he said.
“We are hoping together, as Rep. Sabin mentioned, that we can come together and find innovative ideas and solutions to today’s problems, especially ones that face young people – whether that be student loan debt, adult literacy rates, teenage pregnancy, or whatever it might be that we know will have an impact on our future in this state and across the country,” Sturch said.
Olikara added that his group was excited to launch its 20th chapter in Arkansas, and said the organization had a simple, altruistic goal of uniting millennials nationwide.
“We have been building these caucuses across the U.S. to answer a very simple, but profound question facing our country. And that is how is this next generation going to govern our country,” he said.
“I think there is widespread belief that our institutions of government are not keeping up with challenges facing this younger generation.”