State Rep. Eric Johnson creates new caucus to give voice to younger Texans

David Loewenberg

Students hoping to influence legislation during the upcoming legislative session may have an additional avenue to work through thanks to a new bipartisan caucus.

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, announced Friday the formation of the Young Texans Legislative Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives. The caucus will track and promote legislation affecting the 58 percent of Texans below the age of 40. In the Texas Legislature, caucuses serve as bodies around which members can organize to address the needs of a specific party, group or demographic.

Johnson, 37, said the caucus will create an organization through which young people, including college students, can voice their concerns and ideas on policies being discussed in the Legislature.

“This new caucus will serve as a natural outlet for student organizations seeking to directly engage with the legislature,” Johnson said. “The 1.4 million Texans in our higher education system are overwhelmingly a part of our target age demographic and we will be reaching out to student groups across the state after we get the caucus organized.”

Preston Covington, director of UT Student Government’s state relations agency, said he welcomes the announcement of the new caucus especially as Student Government prepares to play an active role in advocating for student issues during the upcoming legislative session.

“This will serve as another avenue that we will use to reach out and inform representatives about the issues we face,” Covington said.

Student Government, the Senate of College Councils, the Graduate Student Assembly and 25 other student organizations plan to organize students to lobby the Legislature through the “Invest in Texas” campaign — a nonpartisan program designed to advocate for adequate higher education funding.

The YTLC will be open to any representative 40 years old or younger or any representative who represents a district in which the percentage of those younger than 40 surpasses the state percentage. A total of 94 out of the 150 representatives are eligible to join the caucus through one of the two requirements, according to Johnson’s chief of staff Juan Ayala.

The YTLC will join the ranks of caucuses such as the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Johnson pointed to specific issues such as education, infrastructure and management of natural resources that he hopes the new caucus can address on behalf of young Texans. He said he was motivated to create the caucus after looking at the composition of the state and House of Representatives.

“Nearly 6 in 10 Texans are 40 years of age or younger, and that demographic definitely deserves to have a stronger voice in our legislative deliberations,” Johnson said. “When I looked at the makeup of the House, I realized we had a solid core of younger members that we could organize around.”

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: New caucus created for young Texans