ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A group of Minnesota lawmakers who identify as members of racial or ethnic minority groups have united to form a legislative caucus.
The group is named the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, or POCI Caucus, and is comprised of members who identify as Native American, Latino, African American and Hmong.
"Collectively we represent the most diverse communities, the fastest growing communities and the youngest communities in the state of Minnesota," Sen. Patricia Torres Ray of Minneapolis told reporters at a State Capitol news conference.
The 14 members of the group say they're determined to make an impact even though their DFL party is no longer in control of the Legislature. The group pledged to promote legislation that would improve the economic and educational status of Minnesotans of Color and Indigenous Minnesotans.
"When democracy functions, it functions best when it reflects the communities that it seeks to represent," Rep. Peggy Flanagan of St. Louis Park explained.
She said she's happy to be one of five state lawmakers who identify as Native Americans in the legislature this year.
"We’re speaking for ourselves, and that matters, we’re changing the conversation."
The group also has the goal of framing debates around the impact on equity -- not just equality under the law, but how proposed changes in laws and programs would help achieve the goal of economic equity.
"And I think one of the best ways we can start making policy that really impacts all Minnesotans equally and justly is look at what the impact is on equity," Rep. Ellen Maye Quade, an Apple Valley freshman lawmaker, asserted.
That will translate to fighting for public school, and opposing initiatives they believe would weaken them.
"We know that all families need their schools to be fully funded. We know every community needs a strong public school," Maye Quade said.
The charter members of the POCI Caucus include:
Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein of New Brighton
Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn of Roseville
Rep. Peggy Flanagan of St. Louis Park
Rep. Erin Maye Quade of Apple Valley
Rep. Fue Lee of Minneapolis
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis
Rep. Susan Allen of Minneapolis
Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul
Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul
Sen. Bobby Jo Champion of Minneapolis
Sen. Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis
Sen. Patricia Torres-Ray of Minneapolis
Sen. Foung Hawj of St. Paul
Sen. Melisa Franzen of Edina