Vermont Futures Caucus looks to rebuild
June 3, 2022
The Vermont Futures Caucus, a group of legislators younger than 45, is looking to rebuild itself.
By: Keith Whitcomb Jr., Staff Writer
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Futures Caucus, a group of legislators younger than 45, is looking to rebuild itself.
The caucus’ co-chairs, Rep. Rebecca White, D-Hartford, and Rep. Casey Toof, R-St. Albans, said Wednesday their tri-partisan caucus plans to shore up its membership and work on keeping issues that directly impact younger Vermonters at the forefront of the Legislature’s agenda.
Paid family leave, housing, child care, internet access, and climate change are among those issues, White said. Fortunately for the caucus, those matters are high priorities for many others as well.
The caucus got its start several years ago, White said, with Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, and Sen. Corey Parent, both of whom were in the House at the time.
“It’s not a new concept to Vermont’s Legislature, but trying to rebuild it and knowing that we’ve got so many incoming possibly younger legislators, and we’ve got 24 folks currently serving that are in the under 45 category, we’re at a really great point in time to utilize some of the tools that a caucus has in its toolbox to promote issues that affect younger Vermonters,” said White.
The caucus works with the Millennial Action Project, a nationwide nonprofit.
White and Toof said working with the caucus and Millennial Action Project has been helpful, since Vermont legislators don’t have a staff.
“It’s not a robustly paid position, so when there are additional requirements on our time. it’s extremely valuable to have a partner and a resource organization that can help keep things moving along,” said White.
She and Toof said there are many barriers to people their age becoming lawmakers. The job pays less than $24,000 a year, and outside of a pandemic it requires one to live near Montpelier for at least a five-month stretch. It’s a hard commitment to make for many who aren’t retired, independently wealthy, or possessed of a job that somehow allows for it. As a result, the voices of young working people are largely left out of the General Assembly.
It’s been reported that many lawmakers and state-level elected officials won’t be seeking reelection this cycle. Toof and White are hopeful that many of the incoming lawmakers will be younger folks.
“It’s hard to find people that are willing to give up their job, or at least five months a year out of their job, when they’ve got good benefits or they’re trying to make money,” said Toof.
White noted that while the Legislature only meets for five months or so, a lawmaker’s job doesn’t end with the session. They still work with their constituents and have to campaign.
“Vermont has always been a pioneering state, from the first to abolish slavery to the first to legalize marijuana,” stated Layla Zaidane, president and chief executive officer of Millennial Action Project, in a release. “We are ready to partner with Representatives White and Toof to pioneer the future of Vermont and be a leading example of what is possible when people set aside their differences and work together.”
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