New Legislative Caucus Represents Young Texans

Just in time for a new legislative session, a new bipartisan group is addressing the interests of students and young alumni.

A new legislative caucus is helping Texas lawmakers define the issues that will most deeply affect Texans under age 40. Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and UT grad Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) have announced the Young Texans Legislative Caucus, designed to identify and promote long-term issues like education, environment, and natural resources.

Membership in the caucus will be limited to legislators under age 40, or whose districts contain an under-40 population above the state average. Ninety-four members of the 150-member House currently qualify, according to Juan Ayala, spokesperson for Rep. Johnson.

“This new caucus will serve as a natural outlet for student organizations seeking to directly engage with the legislature,” Johnson told the Daily Texan.

Thirty-year-old Rep. Gooden, BA ’04, BBA ’04, Life Member, is among the youngest Texas legislators. Both Gooden and Johnson sit on the powerful House appropriations committee, and Rep. Johnson serves on the House higher education and joint higher education committees.

The bipartisan duo has already piqued the interest of their fellow policymakers, including Rep.-elect Joe Moody (D-El Paso), who has voiced his intent to participate in the caucus. The legislators are joined in the effort by Invest in Texas, student lobbying group led by UT Senate of College Councils president Michael Morton and UT student body president Thor Lund.

So what, exactly, does a legislative caucus do?

“Caucuses serve an interesting purpose,” says UT’s James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, “allowing [legislators] to sidestep partisan conflicts and coalesce around issue areas.”

Those issues of interest to young people—including higher education policy—are likely to play a major role in the upcoming Legislature. Bills relating to admissions, tuition, funding, transfers, textbooks, and the status of undocumented students have already been filed, with more expected when the Legislature meets in January.

The Tribute to Texas Children monument at the Texas Capitol. Photo courtesy wallyg via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

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