New Caucus Seeks to Work for Younger Texans

Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, is leading an effort to create the Texas Young Legislators Caucus, a bipartisan group that plans to focus on issues that affect Texans under 40 and hopes to engage young people in the legislative process.

Some lawmakers in the Texas House hope to join forces to focus on policy issues that impact younger Texans.

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, is working to form the bipartisan Young Texans Legislative Caucus, the first legislative group in the state focused on policy matters that affect Texans under the age of 40, like education, health care and the natural resource management.

Of the 150 members of the House, 94 members will be eligible to join the caucus, he said. Thirty-five representatives are under 40, and 59 more represent districts where 59 percent or more of the population is under 40.

About 58 percent of Texans are under the age of 40, and they tend to be underrepresented in government, Johnson said in an email. Policy often reflects the interests of older citizens because they tend to be more politically active.

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“We hope to focus the broader Lege's attention on Texas's future, and planning for that future, by focusing on the needs of the younger Texans who represent that future,” said Johnson, who is 37.

Johnson said he hopes the caucus will form relationships with organizations and individuals who may want to be involved in the legislative process but don’t know how.

The Democrat is forming the group with the help of his desk mate, Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican from Athens, who turned 30 on Saturday.

“I think we all agree that [Texas is] moving in the right direction, but we want to make sure the younger demographic in the state is not left behind,” Gooden said.

Rep.-elect Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said he plans to join the caucus and hopes it will give focus attention on funding for public and higher education.

“Having educational opportunity, that’s what lays the ground work for going forward and having the life that you want to lead,” said Moody, who is 31.

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He said the $5.4 billion in public education cuts passed in the 2011 session failed to prioritize the future of the state's younger citizens.

Student lobbyists from the University of Texas at Austin hope to work with the caucus on legislation that impacts higher education, said Michael Morton, one of the co-directors of Invest in Texas, a lobbying group at UT. The group's priorities include restoring funding to 2010 levels and creating a policy that would allow each state school to set its own concealed carry on campus policy.

“I think it’s a great idea," Morton said. "When I heard about it, I was very interested. We’re excited for Invest in Texas to hopefully be able to work with the caucus because our interests align.”

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