ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus has a full agenda but those goals are being overshadowed by the threatened expulsion of the caucus chairman, Sen. Larry Young, possibly as early as Friday.
The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics on Monday charged that Young, D-Baltimore, used his office to enrich himself with payments from state vendors, among other charges. It recommended that he be expelled and Senate leaders have scheduled a vote on the issue today.
The turmoil has left the 36-member caucus adrift for now, said Del. Tony E. Fulton, D-Baltimore.
“We’re going to have to recover from this setback,” said Fulton.”These are some of the darkest days for the caucus.
“We’re behind with our legislative agenda,” he said. “We hope to move forward soon and install someone who will help us continue the tradition of helping minorities in the state.”
The fundamental purpose of the 27-year-old caucus is to serve the interests of Maryland’s African-American community, but the black lawmakers said their agenda is much like those of other groups. Like most other lawmakers in the House, they too have suggestions on how to spend a projected $260 million surplus this year.
“We want to ensure that the budget surplus is to be used for those less fortunate,” said Del. Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore.
“We also want to ensure that children and mothers have health care,” said Davis. “We need to make sure some of the money reaches our constituents.”
Better schools and lower higher-education costs are two issues that members said they will focus on.
Because many African Americans live in urban areas, schools are often old and in need of repairs, Davis said. Those schools need to be renovated so that students can learn the latest technology, he said.
“It’s an issue that we must pursue with great vigor,” he said. “We have to continue to prod the state and its commitment to minority participation which is essential if we are ever going to overcome our dependency on government for programs and for jobs.”
Del. Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County, said the caucus needs to focus on programs to “basically stabilize the community.” Those include economic development and improving the family structure and school systems.
Meanwhile, the work of the caucus is getting off to a slow start because of the Young dilemma. Several members are confident, however, that whatever happens to their chairman, the caucus will continue to progress.
“After this, who knows what we’ll accomplish next,” Fulton said.