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Court of Appeals keeps Dream Act on election ballot

Maryland’s top court cleared the way Wednesday for an Election Day referendum on the state’s Dream Act, which would permit qualified undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at public colleges.

Casa de Maryland, an immigrant rights group, had sought to block the referendum, arguing that the law would require the state to appropriate funds and was therefore constitutionally barred from being put before the voters.

The Court of Appeals rejected the group’s argument in a brief order Wednesday morning, about 24 hours after hearing arguments in the case. The high court gave no reason for its decision, stating that it would issue an opinion at an unspecified future date.

“We had hoped that the Court of Appeals would decide differently, but, under the discrete issue of the referability to referendum, we lost,” said Kimberley Propeack, Casa de Maryland’s political action and communications director. “However, we are sure we will win and that a majority of Maryland voters will agree that Maryland kids who graduate from Maryland high schools and pay Maryland taxes should be permitted to pay Maryland in-state tuition.”

MDPetitions.com, which ran the successful petition drive to put the act’s fate on the ballot, hailed the court’s order.

“This is a huge victory for Maryland voters,” said Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, who chairs MDPetitions.com.

“Illegal aliens were suing the state of Maryland,” he added. “They were shut down and justly so by the Court of Appeals.”

Parrott said the referendum will serve as a “check and balance for the people of Maryland” on the governor and General Assembly.

The registered voters who signed the petition for referendum were saying, “We think you’ve gone too far and we need to have a vote on this,” Parrott added. “Now we will be able to have the democratic process.”

The act, which Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in May 2011, permits undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities if they graduate from a public high school, complete 60 community college credits and prove that their parents paid state taxes for the previous three years.

Within days of the Dream Act’s passage in the General Assembly last year, the petition drive began.

The drive, which has prevented the law from taking effect, succeeded in getting 108,923 signatures from Maryland voters —nearly twice the 55,736 required to put the issue on the ballot on Election Day, Nov. 6, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

The high court’s order Wednesday, which upheld the board’s decision to put the issue on the ballot, was foreshadowed during oral arguments Tuesday morning.

Several judges, including Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, were critical of Casa de Maryland attorney Joseph E. Sandler’s contention that the act is an appropriations measure because opening campuses to more students at in-state tuition rates, which the law does, will force the state to appropriate more money. Sandler is with Sandler, Reiff, Young and Lamb PC in Washington, D.C.

The judges, echoing arguments made by the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, said the act itself does not call for additional funds.

Assistant Maryland Attorney General Matthew J. Fader, representing the elections board, told the court Tuesday that the law is not “designed to raise revenue” but has the “sole” purpose of enabling undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities.

Casa de Maryland first fought the petition drive by challenging the validity of the signatures collected. The group formally abandoned that strategy in December, choosing instead to argue that the elections board lacked authority to approve a referendum because the law is an appropriations measure.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth rejected that argument in February. Casa de Maryland appealed directly to the high court, which agreed on April 10 to hear the case, John Doe v. Maryland State Board of Elections, No. 131 Sept. Term 2011.

 


One comment

  1. Well I knew the court of appeals has some sense.. Now how do we get the legit voters to show up at the polls. I’m sure voter fraud will be extreme this November.. How else would the same numbnuts get re-elected?