On the Rise — Arkansas Future Caucus

December 19, 2022

This month, Millennial Action Project (MAP) kicked off the “On the Rise” Tour — a nationwide mobilization to celebrate the big ideas young people are bringing into their statehouses and connect this new generation of leadership. Each tour stop focuses on preparing our state-based Future Caucuses to transcend toxic polarization and achieve future-oriented policy goals in 2023.

The first stop was in Bentonville, Arkansas to convene newly elected Millennial and Gen Z legislators with the Arkansas Future Caucus (ARFC).

Young legislators from across the state came together and discussed cross-partisan solutions. They remained focused on the future with the 2023 Arkansas legislative session as the central topic, and they brainstormed how young people in politics can work together to create positive policy outcomes for generations to come.

The event was led by ARFC co-chairs, Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R) and Rep. Jamie Scott (D). A reporter in the audience who had been covering Arkansas politics for years stated he was amazed by the profound culture change he witnessed at the event. Everyone else in the room saw it too. Although they had just finished a particularly divisive election cycle, the comradery and closeness of the Future Caucus members was palpable.

“I host bipartisan dinners each week while we are in session… When you know the people, you approach policy differently,” said Rep. Jamie Scott, the Democratic co-chair of the Arkansas Future Caucus.

Rep. Scott is one of the 40 young legislators who will serve as a representative in the Arkansas state legislature next January. Nearly 30% of the legislature is now made up of young people. To MAP, this number means so much more than just generational matriculation. We see the scores of young people entering into public office as a new era of collaborative governance.

“One of the bipartisan achievements that I am really proud of was with me and my co-chair, Rep. Jamie Scott. We worked on a program that made it possible for colleges to apply for grants for food banks at their local universities… I’m very proud of that, it’s getting a lot of bipartisan support, and I think it’s one of those things that we are going to look back on and see a lot of lives changed from it,” said Rep. Aaron Pilkington, the Republican co-chair of the Arkansas Future Caucus.

When young people get elected, they govern differently. In the 2021 legislative sessions across the country, young people — despite making up only 20.7% of state legislatures — authored 32.9% of the bipartisan bills that passed into law. Millennial and Gen Z elected officials are overperforming on indexes of post-partisan lawmaking. Arkansas showed us that this collaborative approach to policymaking can be true even in super-majority states where one party has absolute control.

“I’m a Democrat in the minority. Every single one of my bills has a lot of Republicans who vote and support it. I think this is a path to creating better policy. When you work with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, you are inevitably going to have a more informed policy that is more respectful and sensitive to the different people in our state,” said Rep. Andrew Collins, the Democratic vice-chair of the Arkansas Future Caucus.

The Editorial Board of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the largest paper by circulation in Arkansas, published an editorial praising what they observed at this “On the Rise” tour stop. They wrote, “Arkansas’ best future will be advanced by lawmakers and other political leaders embracing good ideas, no matter where they come from. The work of the Arkansas Future Caucus and others that seek out common ground across a variety of political lines — urban/rural, public education, etc. — can help chart a path toward that future.”

The Future Caucus model works. It creates a permission structure that unites legislators along their shared generational identity so they might transcend their partisan differences. As we look to a new season of Millennial and Gen Z legislating, MAP is excited to continue to empower and convene these young leaders. Watch out for more future-focused policy coming from state legislatures with the continuation of the On the Rise tour coming in 2023!

Watch: On The Rise Tour’s Arkansas Highlights

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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