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Mooney bill seeks quota for Hispanics in state's contracts

February 04, 2002

Mooney bill seeks quota for Hispanics in state's contracts



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


The ideological tables were turned Thursday in a Senate committee hearing.

On one side was Sen. Alex X. Mooney, one of the most conservative members of the Maryland General Assembly, requesting hiring quotas for Hispanic-owned businesses.

On the other side was Tina M. Jolivet, executive director of the governor's Office of Minority Affairs, testifying against Mooney's bill.

Mooney says the state should try to give at least 2 percent of its construction contracts to Hispanic-owned businesses to reflect the ethic group's growing population statewide.

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The state's Minority Business Enterprise program sets a goal of 25 percent for minority contractors. Within that, there is a separate goal of 7 percent for African-American businesses and 10 percent for businesses owned by women, but none for other ethnic groups.

As the son of a Cuban immigrant, Mooney said he wants to help Hispanics achieve the American dream.

"So many Hispanics come to this country willing to work hard in order to ensure a good future for their children and grandchildren. It's only fair to allow them the same opportunities offered to other minorities," he said.

Hispanic businesses are available for 2.13 percent of the contracts but get 1.79 percent of the business, according to a January survey by the National Economic Research Associates.

Jolivet said broader studies of state spending show Hispanic businesses are not being passed over.

Imposing a 2 percent goal could jeopardize the legality of the entire Minority Business Enterprise program, according to a report by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

"Our primary interest is to ensure the viability of the office, keep it legally intact," Jolivet said.

The program carves out a niche for African-American-owned businesses because that group has been hit the hardest by discrimination, she said.

Mooney said he was "frankly shocked and amazed" that the administration of Gov. Parris Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend "would come to this committee in opposition of equal treatment for Maryland's Hispanic population."

Jolivet defended the administration's record, saying Glendening has a strong record of appointing minorities to his cabinet, to the bench and to various state boards and commissions.

The administration has aggressively pursued minority contracts for people of all races, she said.

Mooney proposed the idea last year in the form of an amendment to another bill. The Senate rejected it by a 24-21 vote.

Adding a quota for Hispanics could drive up the cost of state contracts by a small amount, according to the legislative services report.

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