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Young lawmakers form caucus to advocate for millennials

May 3, 2017
forestal-dan-mug.jpg Forestal

As millennial lawyers continue to grow in both number and influence throughout the state, millennial lawmakers are seeking to follow suit through a new initiative launched at the Indiana Statehouse.

Led in a bipartisan effort by Reps. Dan Forestal and Dave Ober, the Indiana Future Caucus is designed to encourage millennial to either run for office or find other ways to engage with the legislative process.

“It’s trying to get young folks focused a little further down the line — not just two years or four years or the typical election cycle — on issues that will face young people in the state,” said Ober, a 30-year-old Republican from Albion.

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Those issues could be wide-ranging, Forestal and Ober said, and could cover things such as college affordability and broadband access. Although millennials are roughly defined as people between the ages of 18 and 35, the caucus has extended an invitation to members in their early-to-mid 40s, Ober said.

Ober, the youngest member of the General Assembly in either the House or Senate, said since he was elected in 2012, his older colleagues have been open to his ideas, giving him the opportunity to advocate for legislative issues that are important to younger residents. Similarly, Forestal, a 34-year-old Democrat from Indianapolis, said he and Ober have been given the opportunity to assume leadership positions, with Ober serving as the House Republicans’ assistant majority whip and Forestal serving in the same position for House Democrats.

But although both Ober and Forestal said they have received respect from older lawmakers during their time in the General Assembly, Forestal also said there was one element of being an elected official that neither he nor Ober enjoy — the divisiveness that has plagued the Statehouse in years past.

“One of the things we vowed to do was try to bridge some of the harsh politics that has really gotten the Statehouse in the previous sessions,” Forestal said. “And he and I agreed on so much that we then agreed that, even though we don’t find consensus on every issue, where we can, we should, and we should move forward together in a bipartisan way. And that was how this all kind of started.”

Although the caucus was not launched until late in the 2017 session, Ober said lawmakers still discussed issues of high importance to millennials. For example, the General Assembly took up issues involving parts of the “sharing economy,” a term that describes social activities that involve online transactions.

During the session, lawmakers dealt with legislation relating to major players in the sharing economy, such as Airbnb and Tesla, as they tried to bring the state’s policies regarding those businesses in line with the marketplace, Ober said. Millennials have more exposure to the sharing economy than older people, he said, so their voices should be frequently heard when legislators attempt to create regulations for the use of such services.

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Like Forestal and Ober, Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, said he was drawn to the Future Caucus by the prospect of encouraging millennials to set aside their differences and work together toward resolution on issues they care about. As an attorney and former Vanderburgh County deputy prosecutor, Hatfield said he is in a unique position to both advocate, as a lawmaker, for the issues young Hoosiers care about while also tapping into his legal background to ensure the legislation that is written accomplishes lawmakers’ goals.

Additionally, the Evansville attorney said he is able to see past the words in the bill and look to the impact legislation can have on real people’s lives, including millennials, who will have to live with the legislation for years to come.

“All of those questions need to be answered, and my legal background has helped me analyze these issues carefully,” Hatfield said.

Each year, the Indiana Future Caucus will select an issue to champion, Forestal said. The goal of the caucus is to meet sometime this month to discuss specific issues facing young people in Indiana and decide which issues its member want to move through the Statehouse during next year’s session.

Aside from Forestal, Ober and Hatfield, the other members of the Indiana Future Caucus are Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne; Rep. Chris Judy, R-Avilla; Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis; Rep. Joe Taylor, D-South Bend; Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola; Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis; Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem; and Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville.•

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