Under the Dome

Young state lawmakers create a caucus to connect with millennials

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri at his ceremonial swearing-in at Morrisville’s council chambers in January 2017.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri at his ceremonial swearing-in at Morrisville’s council chambers in January 2017. hgargan@newsobserver.com

A group of state lawmakers says it aims to address issues important to millennials.

The General Assembly’s youngest members have formed the North Carolina Future Caucus, designed for state lawmakers 45 and younger.

The millennial generation is usually considered to include those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – in other words, people ranging in age from teens to mid-30s.

A nonprofit, the Millennial Action Project, has organized the caucus along with similar groups in other states and in Congress. The North Carolina caucus is co-led by Rep. Chaz Beasley, a Charlotte Democrat, Rep. Kyle Hall, a King Republican, Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Raleigh Democrat. Beasley, Hall and Chaudhuri kicked off their outreach effort Wednesday with a news conference at the Legislative Building.

“It is important to confront the issues that are important to our youngest citizens,” Chaudhuri said, suggesting that lawmakers may hold public forums on college campuses.

“I want to do whatever I can to make sure that we proactively include the voices of millennials and have them be a part of the conversation so that we can have a shared prosperity in the state today and a shared prosperity for this state in the future.”

The legislators said they view millennials as primarily concerned about job security and student loans, among other subjects. Tax and education concerns also came up in their remarks.

Hall said he hopes to address with younger voters the need for public safety as the state grows. “We have the same number of state troopers on the road today as we did in 1992,” Hall said. “The state of North Carolina is growing bigger and bigger everyday and we need to invest in public safety.”

Steven Olikara, president and co-founder of Millennial Action Project, said the age of 45 was picked was to help create a “critical mass of members” that could be involved. Chaudhuri said Olikara suggested a North Carolina caucus when the two men met last year at a conference.

“We thought it was important for the citizens of North Carolina to see that there is a substantial group,” Olikara said. “It is important to build the coalition as wide as we can and not limit those involved.”

Chaudhuri acknowledged he is not a millennial. At 47, he is part of Generation X. But he said he understands the demographic changes that are happening in the state. Among North Carolina adults, Chaudhuri said, millennials will pass baby boomers this year as the largest generational group.

Millennials make up one out of every four voters in North Carolina, he said.

Chaudhuri said his own district consists of millennials from N.C. State University, William Peace University and Meredith College.