TRENTON —Both of President Obama’s campaigns have inspired record-breaking youth engagement in politics, yet Millennials are still very much inactive when it comes to policymaking, since their networks are usually inadequate for effective lobbying. Youth councils are an increasingly popular remedy to this problem at the local and state levels, with governments placing Millennials on them to gain their unique insights on legislation that affects and involves them. Unfortunately, there’s no federal equivalent.
The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council (CPYC) aims to change that. With 200 organizational supporters nationwide, a House resolution (HJR47) with over 50 cosponsors, and staff in ten states, CPYC is lobbying Congress to authorize the creation of a federal youth advisory council—a Presidential Youth Council (PYC)— to advise the President on the creation and implementation of federal-level youth policy and youth programs.
“There are a lot of youth councils out there right now, but none of them engage at the federal level, and as a result, often end up coming up short in delivering the most vulnerable young people the resources they need to get through life," remarks H. Caleb Simmons, an Advisory Board Member to CPYC. “Youth need an authentic, effective, institutional voice in Washington to drive progress on issues usually deemed of lesser priority simply because they involve young people. We want to make that happen.”
The cornerstone of their legislative strategy is its state resolutions, including the recently passed AR126 in the NJ Assembly last month. Like its counterparts in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New Mexico, Assembly Resolution 126 by itself simply “...[u]rges the President to Create a Presidential Youth Council." Yet it also aligns New Jersey with the other four states legislatively expressing support for the creation of this Council. CPYC has been using these resolutions to gain support for the passage of its Joint Resolution in the House, and is starting to do the same in the U.S. Senate. The end goal is a counterpart Senate resolution authorizing the creation of the Presidential Youth Council. With 5 states supporting in this way, CPYC could obtain 10 bipartisan cosignatories on a Senate resolution—enough for passage.
“With the support of the NJ Assembly as the fifth state to have passed a pro-Council resolution, we plan to use that to amplify our enthusiastic support in the House, and lobby for the introduction of a pro-Council resolution in the U.S. Senate," says CPYC Chair Miguel Undurraga. “We’re very excited for the future of our effort, and its impact on young Americans in New Jersey, and elsewhere."
A Presidential Youth Council would be a game-changer in domestic policymaking, giving Millennials the access and networks needed to directly shape policy affecting them at the highest levels of government, creating a new and diverse generation of leaders at the national level. New Jersey youth serving on the Council could, for example, persuade Congress to allocate more federal dollars to fund crucial NJ social programs to improve the lives of young people statewide, not to mention diversifying New Jersey’s voice in the Capitol. Yet, while this initiative is sorely needed, CPYC still faces the challenge of passing HJR47 in the House, as well as getting a Senate version of the resolution introduced and passed. The organization will need to partner with education nonprofits with Washington ties, as well as utilize existing connections in order to make this a reality.
With this in mind, CPYC directs its attention next to the U.S. Senate. Whether or not a Presidential Youth Council is authorized in time to work from the start with the next presidential administration depends on whether or not the Senators representing New Jersey, as well as Massachusetts, Indiana, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, are willing to work with the organization to introduce a pro-Council authorizing resolution on the Senate floor.
Most recently, the New Jersey Senate introduced SR-66, which supports the formation of a Presidential Youth Council in the state. SR-66, sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan, is intended to tied in with the campaign's overarching federal agenda.
We will be covering this effort as it progresses. Stay tuned for more updates!
H. Caleb Simmons, CPYC Advisory Board Member, can be reached at [email protected] for comment.