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MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS

MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus, composed of Hispanic members of the Texas House of Representatives, was organized in 1972, right after their numbers had grown due to state redistricting. Meetings took a more formal nature in 1975 when the group became a caucus. Senators of Mexican-American descent also belonged until 1977. The group lobbies other legislators and fights for legislation beneficial to Mexican Americans. Between 1900 and 1953 only two Hispanics served in the Texas legislature. Both represented Brownsville. Millionaire José T. Canales preceded Augustine Celaya, who was elected from 1933 to 1947. In 1957 Henry B. Gonzalez became the first Mexican American elected to the Texas Senate in the twentieth century. Not until the Sixtieth Texas Legislature in 1967–68 was there a significant number of Mexican-American legislators—ten representatives and one state senator. By 1987 twenty-five Mexican Americans held legislative offices, nineteen of them in the House. The increase resulted in part from the efforts of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and legislative and congressional redistricting in the 1960s and 1970s. The founding of Mexican American Democrats in 1978 also contributed to this increase.

In 1981 MALC became an official entity of the House of Representatives with a budget and staff. In 1987 Al Luna of Houston and Eddie Cavazos of Corpus Christi formed the Mexican American Legislative Policy Council, a body that oversees policies MALC supports and prepares research for the legislature and the community on issues affecting the caucus's constituencies. The caucus is composed not only of Mexican-American legislators but also African Americans and Caucasians. Members must be asked to join. Blacks provide a link to the Black Legislators Caucus and help form a significant minority voting bloc. In 1987 the twenty-five Mexican-American and fifteen African-American legislators represented more than 22 percent of the legislature. White legislators have belonged to MALC since 1979, when Ernestine Glossbrenner of Alice joined the group. Caucasian MALC members represent large Mexican-American constituencies in their legislative districts. In 1983 Gerald Gesitweidt of Mason, the first Republican, joined the group. In 1991–92 MALC had twenty-six members, representing about a fifth of the House vote, and in 2001 MALC had forty-one members, representing just over one fourth of the House vote.

In 1975 Paul Moreno of El Paso served as the first MALC chairman and Joe Bernal as the executive director. Other chairmen have included Matt Garcíaqv (1977–79), Moreno (1979–83), Gonzalo Barrientos (1983–85), Al Luna (1985–89), Juan Hinojosa (1989–91), Eddie Cavazos (1991–93), Irma Rangel (1993–95), Hugo Berlanga (1995–99), Rene Oliveira (1999–2001), and Pete P. Gallego (2001–03). Executive directors have included Miguel Guerrero (1979–81), Ruperto Garcia (1983–85), Brian Quintero (1985–87), Antonio Gonzalez (1987–89), David Diaz (1989–91), and Jesse Romero (1991–93). From 1993 to 1997 caucus responsibilities were assumed by each chairman's staff. The position of director was restored in 1997, and since that time the position has been held by Gloria Moreno (1997–99); Nef Garcia, Lisa Garcia, and Bobby Garza (1999–2000); and Richard Sookiasian (2000–03). The group also has an executive council composed of five members, serving as chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, and legal counsel.

The caucus has played a role in writing legislation and determining its outcome on the floor. In 1983–84 MALC pushed through the Bilingual Education Act written by Carlos Truan. In 1985–86 it passed unemployment-compensation legislation that included farmworkers for the first time since 1913. The Texas Observer called the 1985 MALC "the largest single voting bloc for social reform measures." During 1987–88 MALC passed a minimum-wage bill for farmworkers, ended conservative attempts to alter House Bill 72 on comprehensive education reform, and killed the so-called "English-only" movement. During the 1990–91 session MALC helped negotiate an agreement on the equalization of public school finance stimulated by the Edgewood ISD v. Kirby ruling. Caucus members also fought for and won increased appropriations for higher education in South Texas and the border area. MALC also worked to affect the redistricting process in 1991 and 2001, shaping the legislative districts in Texas until the year 2010. MALC's influence continues to increase. In 1987 Speaker Gibson Lewis appointed Hugo Berlanga, a Democrat from Corpus Christi, as speaker pro tem. In 1987 the speaker appointed six caucus members to the Appropriations Committee. Moreover, in 1987 four caucus members served on the Ways and Means Committee. MALC published its first newsletter in summer 1991. In 1997 all House caucuses moved out of the House, and in 2003 MALC had offices a block away from the capitol building.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Records, Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Capitol Extension, Austin.

Cynthia E. Orozco

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cynthia E. Orozco, "MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/wem04), accessed December 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.