Tea Party Victory… In Maryland?
In this year’s General Assembly, Maryland lawmakers, much like their Washington, D.C. counterparts, chose again to ignore the voice of the voters and do what they thought would get them re-elected. Many, many votes this year defied the will of “we the people”, but I’m speaking primarily of Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act. The Act, passed in both chambers despite bipartisan dissent, and signed into law in a very public, campaign-style ceremony by Governor Martin O’Malley, would grant in-state tuition rates at Maryland public colleges and universities to students who are in America illegally, with very few guidelines or caveats.
The only surprising part of this news is that it took until now for Maryland to pass such a bill. After all, Maryland is the most Democratic-leaning state in the Union. According to the latest Gallup poll, Maryland Democrats have a state-side 22 percent advantage over Republicans. Both chambers of the state assembly have strong Democratic majorities, Maryland is represented by two of the bluest liberals in the U.S. Senate, and routinely sends a Democratic majority to the House. But when this bill was tabled for debate, it was met with fierce, all be it small and short-funded, opposition. The bill eventually passed, with only a few minor amendments.
No sooner was the final vote tallied, two conservative Delegates, Neil Parrott and Pat McDonough, were working tirelessly to have the law suspended and placed on the 2012 ballot as a referendum vote. They set up a website, MDPetitions.com, to drive for online petitions. Several volunteers including myself and Delegate Justin Ready, took to the streets to collect signatures in support of the referendum. And just as Maryland is known as a hot spot for liberals, the bluest state is equally dismissive of its rather small Tea Party influence.
However, on May 31, Delegate Parrott proudly announced that the petition drive had submitted over 60,000 signatures. By state law, in order to keep the petition alive, 18,579 valid signatures were required by that date, with the balance of 55,736 signatures due by June 30. With the Maryland Board of Elections charged with the task of verifying and validating the signatures, it is likely that some will be litigated out.
It is unclear as of yet how many of the submitted signatures will be accepted by the BoE, but a few things have become very clear. Maryland’s Tea Party movement is a force to be reckoned with. It is also obvious that despite her liberal tendencies, Maryland’s residents understand the rule of law; that illegal means against the law; and that they are tired of being taken to cleaners for the political gain of elected officials. In fact, several hard-core liberals not only signed the petition, but also offered to help circulate it.
Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was busy complaining that Republicans and conservatives think that illegal immigration “should in fact be a crime.” Governor O’Malley fought for this bill and signed it so that “new Americans” would have a fighting chance. Perhaps Miss Schultz and Mister O’Malley should get out of their offices and spend some time with the good people of Maryland, liberals and conservatives alike, and find out the majority of Americans, including the newly vocal Maryland Tea Party movement, do in fact think that illegal immigration is a crime.
As of this week, the Maryland BoE has validated 47,354 signatures for the referendum petition. That leaves just under 8,400 more valid signatures to effectively suspend the Maryland DREAM Act and let the citizens decide its fate next November. Twenty-seven percent of the validated signatures, by the way, are the names of registered Democrats, and twelve per cent are independents.
Far be it from me to predict the future, but I see at least one liberal, over-spending, over-reaching bill being transported from the I.C.U. to its end-of-life bed.