Members of the Mississippi Future Caucus take a selfie at their introductory press conference on Tuesday.

Mississippi legislators Tuesday announced a new coalition of young lawmakers who intend to create meaningful policy and increase civic engagement among the state’s youth.

Co-chairs Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Escatawpa, and Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, announced the creation of the Mississippi Future Caucus at a press conference. The bipartisan group comprised of legislators under age 40 will address issues facing Mississippi’s millennial population.

Anderson, 25, said the caucus’ goal is “to disrupt political gridlock” by working together to create legislation for topics including education, workforce development, and government transparency and accountability. Anderson is the youngest person currently serving the Mississippi Legislature; he joined in 2014.

Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point

When asked how the group would foster bipartisanship in a Legislature that was overwhelmingly Republican, Barker said the two parties already agree on a number of issues like criminal justice reform and retaining talent in the state.

“I think that translating those points of agreement into policy outcomes, that’s our next step,” said 35-year-old Barker, the first millennial elected to the Legislature, in 2008.

The caucus is a part of the Millennial Action Project, a national network of future caucuses devoted to mending the relationship between parties and tackling issues that affect millennials and future generations.

The MAP was founded in 2013 and Mississippi is the 16th state to join, said founder and president Steven Olikara.

“The Millennial Action Project activates millennial policy makers at the congressional level … as well as in state legislatures,” Olikara said. “I think the goal of a group like this is to close that gap between the idealism we have to make change in our communities and our disaffection with government and the status quo.”

Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg

Barker added that the group aims to inspire and encourage millennials in the state to get involved in the political process.

“We hope that they will engage, we hope that they will be active, we hope they will think about running for office because Mississippi and your local communities desperately need you,” he said.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.

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