A group of legislators from minority communities have created a caucus at the Capitol called the People of Color and Indigenous, or POCI, which is pronounced like "posse."
At a Wednesday news conference, the DFL lawmakers unveiled an agenda on issues like education, economic development and jobs, criminal justice reform and health and wellness. The group is focused on spending more to close disparities between whites and people of color in Minnesota, which is home to some of the starkest gaps in educational outcomes and incomes in the country. A 2015 Census report, for instance, showed a rise in poverty for black Minnesotans from 2013 to 2014, a trend not seen in other racial groups.
The GOP-controlled House and Senate is focused on tightening budgets to allow for tax cuts and spending on roads and bridges, which means the POCI agenda has little chance of passage.
But the group's formation underscores the rapidly changing makeup of the Legislature, which is home to an increasing number of lawmakers who are African-American, Asian-American and American Indian.
Those demographic groups are among the state's youngest and fastest growing populations.
"We are committed to eliminating racial, social, economic, criminal justice and environmental disparities," said Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, who spent years as the House's only African-American until the November election, when two more black lawmakers were elected.