From left, Arthur Blank Foundation President and Director Fay Twersky, Georgia state Reps. Park Cannon and Jasmine Clark and Alabama state Rep. Jeremy Gray lock arms in a get-to-know-you exercise at the Future Caucus’ Future Summit South.

From left, Arthur Blank Foundation President and Director Fay Twersky, Georgia state Reps. Park Cannon and Jasmine Clark and Alabama state Rep. Jeremy Gray lock arms in a get-to-know-you exercise at the Future Caucus’ Future Summit South.

Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Gen Z and Millennial state leaders from around the South came to Atlanta this weekend for an exclusive summit for young legislators featuring panels on topics like artificial intelligence and mass incarceration.

The event, which included lawmakers from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina, ran Thursday through Saturday and was hosted by the Future Caucus, a national nonpartisan group dedicated to assisting legislators 45 and younger and encouraging bipartisan cooperation. Each Future Caucus state chapter has a co-chair from both major parties.

Georgia’s caucus has about two dozen members, mostly Democrats. At least four members, all Democrats, made an appearance at Friday’s event. Republican co-chair Rep. Steven Sainz of Camden County was scheduled to speak but did not appear. In a text, Sainz said he was needed in his district.


Bipartisan efforts

Democratic co-chair Rep. Jasmine Clark of Lilburn told her colleagues from other states she was encouraged by bipartisan progress in Georgia this year, including on Medicaid expansion, safe gun storage and medically accurate sex education, measures that did not pass but gained more traction than in previous years.

But despite that progress, Clark said it’s been hard to get the gang together this year.

“I do appreciate many of my Georgia Future Caucus members being here today, but sadly it’s only one side of the aisle here, and I wish that were not the case,” she said. “It’s not for not inviting, but what I will say on that note is efforts have been made to make sure that we do have bipartisan conversations, so I really appreciated when (Future Caucus President and CEO Layla Zaidane and Senior Director of Membership Blaine Volpe) came down to Atlanta and we had our in-person caucus meeting, we actually did have both sides of the aisle in the room talking about our favorite walkout song and all the fun things, and also talking about policy.”

“I really appreciated that because I see from Future Caucus as an organization a true effort to try to bring everyone into the room, and let’s be honest, it’s an election year,” she added. “There are times where people are legitimately scared to be seen with someone from the opposite side of the aisle in an election year. They’re like, ‘I support you, all that stuff, but please don’t take a picture with me, I’m cool with this, but let’s not be on the same flyer because I don’t want someone in my district to get a hold of that.’”

Speaking to The Recorder after her remarks, Clark said she hopes as Georgia’s Legislature becomes more youthful, bipartisan rancor may decrease.

“I think that a younger Legislature is going to be a lot more open to conversation and policy that affects everyone,” she said. “I’m a parent. I have one child who will vote for the first time this year, and I have a freshman in high school, and the conversations that kids have nowadays are a lot more fluid than the more rigid conversations that I was having at their ages. I think they are just a lot more willing to listen to each other and just to say, ‘hey, there are things that we both don’t like about what’s going on, and that’s what I care about.’ I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think the children will save us.”

Sainz told the Recorder young Republican legislators are committed to solving the state’s problems.

“Republican lawmakers of every age are equally committed to the policies that are strengthening Georgia,” he said. “As we lead this state forward, younger Republican members of the House & Senate continue to drive work around responding to the public safety concerns coming from illegal immigration, reducing the impact that extreme inflation has on families, and strengthening trust in our democratic process.”

“I appreciate some of the tools the Future Caucus provides young lawmakers, but it does not replace being in our district and talking to our neighbors, friends and voters,” he added. “The Future South conference is a neat concept to get Southern lawmakers together. I had asked for the summit to be at a time where travel would be more conducive to lawmakers. This request was not apparently feasible.”


Artificial Intelligence

The younger generation of lawmakers often finds itself teaching its elders about the newest trends they are to legislate on, said Atlanta Democratic Rep. Park Cannon.

“I remember a few years ago when we decided how do we tax Ubers and Lyfts, and many legislators over 40 didn’t even have those platforms in their districts, let alone had ever used one,” she said. “So it was helpful that young lawmakers were there to give some information as to what would a flat tax do versus what would a percentage tax do.”

Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick speaks about artificial intelligence.

Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick speaks about artificial intelligence.

Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

This year, artificial intelligence is coming in hot as a new technology that is rapidly changing many aspects of life.

The Georgia House passed a bill that would require disclosure for political advertisements that contain deepfake images, video or audio of a candidate within 90 days of an election, but the bill died in the Senate.

Lithonia Democratic Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, a member of the House Technology Committee, said she expects a younger legislature will more easily understand AI and its impact in all aspects of life.

“I think it will be at the forefront of everything that we do,” she said. “Even though the Technology Committee is a standalone committee now, I think (AI) will leak over into motor vehicles, it will leak over into discussions about criminal justice reform, it will leak over into discussions that we have about elections and local legislation. Instead of it being so isolated to a committee, as the population gets younger, I think those conversations are going to be had in every committee. Because the technology, if you think about it, is in everything that we do, but for whatever reason, it gets very singular and focused when we get through the legislative process.”

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Georgia Recorder.