LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature’s youngest members are banding together to work on issues that help recruit and retain young people.
The Legislature’s 11 state senators under age 40 — about a quarter of the 49-member body — on Friday announced Next Generation Nebraska, a bipartisan group meant to look at issues faced by millennials and future generations.
Chaired by Sens. Adam Morfeld, 31, of Lincoln and Brett Lindstrom, 35, of Omaha, the effort is part of Millennial Action Project, a national movement of young elected officials working together.
The group will listen to young professional groups across the state to better understand ways the state can attract young people to Nebraska and persuade them to stay, Lindstrom said.
In the post-recession years, college degree holders have become more likely to leave Nebraska than move in. For every 1,000 people in Nebraska over age 25, a net of more than six degree holders moved out, according to Census data from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey released last month.
“Really what this group is about is a bipartisan effort to address the out-migration of young professionals in the state of Nebraska, whether it’s Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island or Scottsbluff,” Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom is a Republican and Morfeld is a Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.
Morfeld called the effort a unique opportunity to add to the state’s workforce. The group won’t identify specific issues until listening to stakeholders, but it plans to introduce legislation based on feedback, he said.
The millennial generation is generally referred to those born after 1980 and reaching adulthood around the year 2000.
The Nebraska Legislature last year had the highest percentage of millennial legislators of all states, according to a survey released in December 2015 by Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nebraska is believed to have the highest percentage of millennial lawmakers of all states this year, too, said Steven Olikara, the Millennial Action Project president and co-founder.
That’s despite some drawbacks for young people interested in running to serve in the State Capitol, which include long hours away from their families and a $12,000 annual salary.
The state’s percentage of millennial lawmakers went up in 2017 with the election of Sens. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, Tony Vargas of Omaha, Justin Wayne of Omaha and Anna Wishart of Lincoln.
Nebraska is the 15th state to join the Millennial Action Project, which works to exchange ideas and best practices among young elected leaders. Other states include California, Texas and Illinois, Olikara said.
The project was created as a way to encourage millennial engagement in the political process. Olikara pointed out that many of the nation’s founders were young, including Thomas Jefferson, who at age 33 wrote the Declaration of Independence.
“We think millennials have a lot to offer in our democracy,” Olikara said.
Nebraskans wishing to submit ideas to the state coalition can reach individual senators or through millennialaction.org, the Millennial Action Project’s website.