Each generation faces unique challenges, and Millennials are no different. To address these issues, Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-Ripon) and other young California legislators have joined forces to create the California Millennial Caucus — a bi-partisan group of lawmakers under the age of 35 who hope to show young people that they have a place in politics.
Spearheaded by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) and Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Roseville), the caucus comes at a time when many Millennials are struggling to make ends meet. The battle to pay off student loans, find a home and become successfully employed is ongoing for most born between the years of 1982 and 1997, and these are some of the issues Flora and the rest of the California Millennial Caucus aim to address.
“I think right now, tuition costs and the price of education are big concerns for Millennials, and how that relates into the process of buying a home and housing costs,” said Flora. “In California, these are some of the two biggest issues.”
Under 13 percent of Millennials own their own home, and though the generation is on track to have the highest percentage of college degrees of any other, Millennials are more likely to be underemployed. Flora hopes to help ease Millennials’ pressure of finding a job after college during his time as part of the caucus by pointing out a different route - jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree.
“Myself and a few others are focused on technical education. There is a lot of pressure to get a four-year degree and Millennials think that’s the only way you can be successful in life, but that’s not true,” said Flora. “There are a lot of high-paying jobs to be proud of working with trade, labor and computer companies.”
Oftentimes, Millennials can achieve the “American Dream” by attending a trade school or vocational college, Flora explained, which help to alleviate the strain of college debt and give Millennials a financial leg up upon graduation.
“We’re really working and trying to change the mindset,” said Flora. “A four-year degree is awesome, but not absolutely necessary.”
In addition to helping Millennials with financial problems they may face at the state level, the caucus also aims to represent the state’s younger residents. According to a 2014 study by Harvard University, 58 percent of Millennials believe elected officials don’t share their priorities, and 62 percent believe elected officials are motivated by selfish reasons. A major focus of the California Millennial Caucus will be to increase involvement, civic engagement and rebuild trust with Millennials, with its youngest member being just 26 years old.
“When it comes to the political world, Millennials are becoming very vocal about it, but not willing to do much and get involved to try and change things. For a long time, they have felt shut out of the process,” said Flora.
Flora hopes that the California Millennial Caucus will inspire the state’s younger generation to not just protest in the streets, but realize their voices can be heard on a wider spectrum.
“This caucus shows that there is a path for us to be successful in this political arena,” he said. “What was once perceived as a ‘good ol’ boys’ club’ isn’t necessarily that way anymore if you’re willing to stick your neck out and try.”
At 33 years old, Flora is a first-time legislator who was willing to give politics a shot, defeating the more experienced Ken Vogel in last year’s election.
“There is no reason Millennials can’t be successful, and we need new faces getting involved in politics,” said Flora. “Even seasoned politicians understand that there is another generation coming up.”