Six state lawmakers on Thursday announced the formation of the Maryland Latino Legislative Caucus, vowing to bring a Hispanic perspective to the State House that will benefit the state’s fastest-growing demographic group.
Full funding for education, paid sick leave and avoiding Medicaid cuts are among the top priorities for the group, chaired by Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s/Anne Arundel). Del. Ana Sol-Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) and Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), both veteran lawmakers, will serve as legislative committee co-chairs.
“As legislators, we represent everyone in the state of Maryland,” Peña-Melnyk said. “However, this caucus was formed to express the views of the Latino community.”
Six Latino lawmakers are serving in Annapolis, more than ever, according to the caucus. The other members are Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery) and freshmen Dels. Will Campos (D-Prince George’s) and Maricé Morales (D-Montgomery).
Other groups of lawmakers in the capital include the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, the Women Legislators of Maryland caucus and the Maryland Veterans Caucus.
The caucus members’ home districts of Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties are also home to the majority of the state’s approximately 500,000 Latinos, including immigrants from El Salvador, Peru and the Dominican Republic.
“For a long time, we’ve been invisible, and we continue to be too invisible in my mind,” Sol-Gutierrez said. “The caucus is going to be a voice to help change that invisibility.”
Sol-Gutierrez said the caucus must hold state agencies — from schools to corrections facilities — accountable for providing information, forms and training in Spanish as well as in English. Caucus members said they will push for education funding to benefit Latino children, whose numbers are growing.
“Out of 5,751 total small businesses in the state of Maryland, only 185 of those are registered Latino-owned businesses,” Fraser-Hidalgo said. “We need to do more to encourage entrepreneurship.”