Md. High Court says citizens can decide the law's fate.
The referendum in November to decide the fate of the "DREAM" Act will take place. On Wednesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court which allows the measure to be placed on the ballot in the general election.
"I think it’s a great win for Maryland voters all over the state," says Washington County Delegate Neil Parrott (R), who has been part of the effort to gather signatures to place the "DREAM" Act on the ballot. He says opponents have collected 130,000 signatures to request the referendum. So far, 109,000 have been validated by the Maryland Board of Elections, Parrott says, which is more than enough to put it on the ballot.
The "DREAM" Act would let children of illegal immigrants attend college in Maryland at in-state tuition rates, if they meet certain conditions. It was passed by the General Assembly last year, and signed into law by the Governor. Opponents began gathering signatures to put it on the ballot in November, 2012.
"We are disappointed in the court ruling, but we are also confident that we’re going to win this issue on the ballot when it’s put before the voters in November," says Joe Sandler, an attorney who represented CASA de Maryland in court, challenging whether this law should on the ballot.
He says the "DREAM" Act is an appropriations bill, and it cannot be placed on the ballot in a referendum. "Because it would require the governor to include additional funding for community colleges in future budgets," says Sandler. "It was the type of law that under Maryland’s Constitution that could not be put to referendum."
But Delegate Parrott says the state’s high court didn’t see it that way. "The court case in question is whether it’s an appropriations bill, whether it puts money into an account, which it clearly does not do, and the Appeals Court decided that it didn’t," he says.
Even though opponents of the "DREAM" Act say they have more than enough signatures to put it on the ballot, Sandler says that doesn’t guarantee it will go down to defeat. "The amount of signatures is a tiny, tiny fraction," he says, noting it’s "less than 3% of the registered voters in Maryland. So getting something on the ballot is not an indication of getting it approved or disapproved."
Delegate Parrott acknowledges that some of those who signed the petitions might support the "DREAM" Act, and may have wanted to settle this issue once and for all. "Every voter, whether they’re for it or against it, will be able to vote on this bill this coming November, and I think that’s great news for Marylanders," he says.