In-state tuition for illegals: it’s not etched in stone yet

Among the many setbacks conservatives and others who care about the formerly Free State of Maryland endured from the recently-concluded session of the Maryland General Assembly was the adoption of in-state tuition given to illegal immigrants. While the bill was watered down grudgingly by supporters in order to facilitate passage, the 74-65 House vote on SB167 was just enough to get the bill passed and on to Governor O’Malley’s willing signature.

But not so fast. In Maryland, voters can have the final say on legislation by petitioning it to a referendum at the next General Election. Shortly after the passage of the bill, Delegate Neil Parrott – a newly-elected official who began his political career as a TEA Party organizer in Hagerstown – took the lead in a petition drive to do just that.

However, this is not an easy path. All told, the petition drive needs 56,000 valid signatures statewide to succeed. These have to be collected and turned in by June 30, with the additional caveat that 1/3 of the total needs to be collected by May 31. The most recent previous effort to bring a newly-enacted law to referendum was the speed camera law in 2009 and that failed to get the required number of signatures at the 1/3 hurdle. And you can bet that certain counties will be harshly judging the validity of signatures – better have the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.

And even if the petition drive succeeds, we will surely be subjected to the sob stories of kids whose path to success is being blocked by those mean people who are making them the victims of a witch hunt against anyone who isn’t white Anglo-Saxon and may have a trace of a Spanish accent in their English. Well, I happen to believe in upholding the law. And at a cost of over $3 million to the state a year once implemented, this is a place where we need to be budget-conscious. (Even those who wrote the fiscal note can only guess at the impact, though.)

Obviously the key is getting signatures; probably close to 100,000 are needed in order to have enough spares to counteract the certain pickiness exhibited by the state Board of Elections. A website for the effort should be up by the end of the week and the effort will be on. (You can volunteer to help here.)

Too bad this doesn’t extend to recall of some of the elected officials who voted for this. In the meantime, they can count on my signature being among the 56,000.

Should he stay (home) or should he go (for Senate)?

As of yesterday, it’s been 19 weeks since Dr. Eric Wargotz was crushed by 26 points in his election matchup against Senator Barbara Mikulski. However, Eric carried 12 counties and managed to do somewhat better than 2004 nominee (and now State Senator) E.J. Pipkin, who lost by 31 points and carried only 7 counties.

But now Wargotz may have his sights set on a (presumably) more vulnerable target in Maryland’s junior Senator, Ben Cardin. (After all, Cardin ‘only’ beat Michael Steele by 10 points in 2006.) Yesterday he debuted a Facebook ‘event’ dubbed “Help Eric Wargotz decide to enter the Maryland US Senate race 2012.” Still, given the fact he’s occasionally updated his election Facebook page since his loss my suspicion was that he was bound to give it another shot regardless.

Moreover, Eric will have a few additional advantages this time around – name recognition with voters, experience gained from a recent statewide run, and (most likely) a fairly shallow primary field. The biggest name considering a 2012 campaign is Delegate Pat McDonough of Baltimore County, who thought about a run for Governor last year but this time may opt to challenge Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. Last year’s chief Senate contender, Jim Rutledge, is more inclined to wait for 2014 opportunities as rumor has it.

So it looks like Eric will be hitting the campaign trail once again; obviously those who have responded to his Facebook are urging him to go for it. (As if anyone would tell him, nah, skip this race.) Barring any big names out of the Maryland General Assembly jumping into the race, it would appear that Wargotz would be the odds-on favorite for the GOP nod once again.