ST. PAUL — Members of the Minnesota People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on Wednesday, Feb. 26, put forth their legislative priorities.

The group of 19 Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers of color and Indigenous lawmakers put forth a slate of proposals that they said could help improve the quality of life of people of color and Indigenous Minnesotans and close disparities in education, health and economic vitality between people of color and their white peers.

Among their proposed changes were efforts to increase the number of teachers of color in Minnesota classrooms and increase funds for English Language Learner programs, provide funding to help Indigenous and African American entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, expand the MinnesotaCare program to reduce disparities in health care coverage and decrease the use of cash bail to limit the number of people of color stuck in jail for extended periods.

"Our government is looking more and more like our people," Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, said. "And because it's looking more like our people, it's our people's voices that are being brought to the table to drive a sense or urgency and also to drive a creative spirit on how we can shape state government in a way that is ever more responsive to the needs of each Minnesotan."

While the caucus said some of the proposals had support from Republicans, they acknowledged that the prospects of the bills will depend on support from GOP lawmakers who hold a majority in the Minnesota Senate. And members of the POCI caucus made an appeal to their Republican colleagues to advance the proposals.

"We have Republicans who say they care about people of color. Well, care is an action, it's a verb," Rep. Rena Moran, D-St. Paul, said. "In order for them to show that they care for communities, what we need is for the Senate to open up some of those committees and have our bills heard."

At least one proposal didn't come as part of the package because members of the committee split on whether they should support it. While a handful of the caucus members have backed a proposal to amend the Minnesota Constitution to guarantee each student a "quality public education," Sen. Jeff Hayden, D-Minneapolis, said the caucus didn't formally endorse that move due to differing opinions on the policy.