By Naomi Eide
Capital News Service
A Maryland General Assembly ethics panel is weighing criteria for recognizing and allocating resources for official legislative caucuses.
The issue of recognizing what makes a caucus is under consideration because of a new, Latino caucus, which wants the same recognition as the black and the women’s caucuses, said Del. Bonnie Cullison, D-Montgomery.
The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the Women Legislators of Maryland have staff, office space and printing resources. The General Assembly supplements some of the costs for the caucuses, like benefits for the caucuses’ staff.
The Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus was formed less than a year ago and participated in the General Assembly session this year.
The caucus represents the growing Maryland Hispanic population, advocates for legislation and provides a perspective on its constituents’ needs, said Senator Victor Ramirez, D-Prince George’s, a member of the ethics panel as well as the Latino caucus.
The Latino caucus wants “to be able to come together and be recognized,” said Ramirez. “The idea is to really address issues and really talk about the policy and legislation that affects Hispanics in Maryland.”
Del. Susan McComas, R-Harford, said there is concern about the proliferation of caucuses, but Senator Wayne Norman, R-Cecil and Harford, countered that anyone who wants to caucus should be able to do it, citing the watermen’s caucus as an example.
Del. William Frick, D-Montgomery, said, “Let’s not borrow trouble. Let’s not weigh in to a whole other process,” and instead look at the allocation of resources and not the criteria for recognizing a caucus.
The bicameral ethics panel on Wednesday agreed to ask the legislature’s presiding officers, Senate President Mike Miller,D-Calvert, Prince George’s, and House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, to clarify whether the committee should discuss requirements for official recognition or just criteria to provide additional resources from the General Assembly.