Young Ohio lawmakers form millennial-focused bipartisan 'Future Caucus'

 Jackie Borchardt/cleveland.com

Jackie Borchardt/cleveland.com

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Some of the Statehouse's youngest leaders on Tuesday launched a new bipartisan group aimed at breaking through partisan gridlock and crafting policy with the millennial generation and younger Ohioans in mind.

The Ohio Future Caucus will seek nonpartisan, long-term solutions to problems faced by Ohioans, especially millennials, and try to dispel cynicism about public service.

Sen. Frank LaRose, a Copley Republican, said the caucus will provide opportunities for lawmakers to talk and bring up problems that need to be solved.

"As people in our 20s and 30s, we are focused on solving these problems for our state, not about what's good for one party or another but what's good for the people of Ohio," LaRose said at a news conference Tuesday.

LaRose, 36, spearheaded the effort with three other lawmakers in their 30s: Rep. Sarah LaTourette, a Bainbridge Township Republican; Rep. Mike Stinziano, a Columbus Democrat; and Sen. Capri Cafaro, a Hubbard Democrat. Other members include Democratic Reps. Emilia Sykes of Akron, Christie Kuhns of Cincinnati, and Kent Smith of Euclid; and Republican Reps. Nathan Manning of North Ridgeville and Niraj Antani of Miamisburg. (Smith, admittedly a member of Generation X, said he joined the caucus because the group is forward-thinking.)

LaTourette said the group will likely avoid social issues such as abortion but will probably tackle topics such as education and workforce development. House members had their first meeting following Tuesday's news conference.

The group is partnering with Millennial Action Project, a national nonprofit that aims to increase millennial participation in government and reshape politics to meet the generation's diversity, pragmatism, and collaborative attitude. Future caucuses have formed in 10 other states.

Millennial Action Project President Steven Olikara said millennials, generally considered to have been born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, have the highest community service rates of any generation, yet less than one-third see politics as a positive avenue for service. Less than 20 percent of the current General Assembly is under age 40.

"It is up to us to challenge the dominant narrative in American politics that public service is a dishonorable career track, that you can't make a difference, that you can't make real impact for the next generation," Olikara said.

Cafaro said discord among opposing parties exists at every level of government and the Future Caucus shows it's possible to find common ground. Cafaro said redistricting that favors one party over another has made the political climate worse.

"You're not rewarded for finding consensus -- you get met with a primary challenge," Cafaro said. "That has exacerbated the erosion of congeniality and consensus building we've historically seen."