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Florida’s government is ready for a Millennial takeover

Give Me Your Money

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So what do Millennials discover when they themselves become elected officials?

I asked the only Millennial I know in the Florida Legislature, Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders, who serves east Orlando, including UCF. Elected at age 29 in 2012, Saunders is also one of Florida’s first two openly gay state representatives.

“One thing that surprised me when I got elected and began to engage at a new level,” says Saunders, “was just how rare it was for a lawmaker to write their own bill and how often lawmakers didn’t even understand their own bills.”

“The truth is, most legislation that moves in Tallahassee is not written by legislators,” says Saunders. “It’s written by associations or lobbyists.”

If you think about it, he says, it (unfortunately) makes complete sense.

“We’re a citizen Legislature,” he says, “and there’s this expectation that because you got elected, because you were able to raise a chunk of money and … go knock on a bunch of doors and talk to voters and express your values to them, that that would make you an expert on the nuances of policies that affect 20 million people.”

Saunders says lawmakers pay attention when Millennials act like lobbyists and show up at their offices, but he says they pay much more attention when Millennials take over those offices.

“Right now, in this moment, there are going to be more competitive state legislative seats than there were a decade ago, that there are going to be more races that are won or lost by a few hundred or few thousand votes,” he says. “So if young folks who are disillusioned by the process … take this moment to engage in the process, in the election cycle, their voice is more greatly weighted than it was in the past.”

If we’re ever going to have a forward-thinking Legislature, one that could even begin to address global warming, for instance, Saunders says he’ll need more of his generational cohorts alongside him.

“I’m already here,” he says. “I just need help with the math.”

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