Leaders convene to address challenges facing New Hampshire’s youth and families

A coalition of lawmakers and advocacy groups convened a discussion last week aimed to bridge the gap between the experiences of young individuals and families and the policies crafted to support them. (Colin Booth/Granite Post)

By Colin Booth

February 7, 2024

A coalition of lawmakers and advocacy groups convened a discussion last week on major issues facing New Hampshire’s youth and families, such as housing costs, abortion rights, and the barriers facing young people interested in running for and serving in elected office.

The roundtable—which included more than a half-dozen state lawmakers and representatives of 603 Forward, the New Hampshire Youth Movement, and the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund—aimed to bridge the gap between the experiences of young individuals and families and the policies crafted to support them.

The discussion centered on creating policies that foster opportunity and affordability, with a particular emphasis on how young legislators are spearheading efforts to ensure these priorities are reflected in the state’s policy-making process.

“It’s important to know that there is a bipartisan housing committee that’s working on a series of bills, and they’re hopeful about getting some things passed, including a duplex bill that I think would make a significant difference,” said State Rep Angela Brennan, in a discussion on steps being taken in the legislature to address housing affordability and supply, which has been an ongoing issue in the state.

“When I meet someone who’s in their teens or early 20s One of the first things we talk about is like, ‘where do you live? Can you afford it?’…  Unfortunately, it’s something that young people are really thinking about right now,” said Sayles Kasten, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Youth Movement.

Advocates spent a significant time emphasizing the need to bridge the gap between what is happening at the New Hampshire legislature and how it impacts young people in the state, and why their involvement is needed.

“When I meet with young people across the state, it’s really important that I am able to tell them know that there are young leaders in elected office fighting for them right now. Through all the national noise, there is a real chance in New Hampshire to advance an agenda that focuses on affordability and opportunity, but progress is going to take time and a lot of work.” Said Matt Mooshian, Advocacy and Engagement Director at 603 Forward.

RELATED: ‘Crushing disappointment’: New Hampshire home prices push out young people

Abortion was also a central topic of conversation among attendees. Democrats celebrated their defeat of both 15-day and 15-week abortion bans proposed by House Republicans. Democrats also emphasized their need to pass affirmative protections for abortion in the state constitution to bring the state on par with the rest of New England.

Deputy Leader Rep. Alexis Simpson said Democrats having to constantly be on defense from Republican attacks on abortion prevented energy from being directed to many of the other priorities discussed at the roundtable, like housing.

“We are really tired of having to fight every single year against these abortion bans. And it sucks some of the energy from other things, other problems that we’re trying to solve, but it’s also just an attack on the dignity of Granite Staters, that we can’t just make our own reproductive health care decisions,” Rep. Simpson said.

Senator Becky Whitley emphasized the strengths of having young people in the New Hampshire legislature, saying they had a better grasp on issues facing working families in the state.

“There are three millennial senators in the State House and we have gotten a lot done,” Whitley said. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen, particularly when young people are in office.”

“We all know how challenging it is to have their voices heard across the street at the state house. Just given the structural inequality that exists. Thankfully we’ve got a really talented group of young legislators who have been able to make it work,” added Rep. Matt Wilhelm, emphasizing one of his goals was to lower barriers to young people serving in the State House.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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