Today the Baltimore Sun published a very flattering article and an editorial about Freshman Republican Delegate Neil Parrott’s leadership and technological innovation on the petition drive to place a referendum on the ballot in 2012 to let voters decide if illegal aliens should receive taxpayer-supported college tuition.
The Sun notes that Parrott and his army of petitioners have tapped into a rich vein of voter anger against the whole notion of taxpayer support for anything to do with illegal immigrants as our US borders remain wide open. It’s my view that the anger is further inflamed at this time when governments at all levels seem unable to control spending.
The Sun article begins:
In April, when Del. Neil C. Parrott, a first-year legislator from Washington County, began challenging a new state law that gives college tuition discounts to illegal immigrants, many in his own Republican Party thought his petition drive would fail.
He lacked the national support, the cash and the organizational structure that most believed was needed to have a law put on the ballot in Maryland, which hasn’t happened in 20 years.
But Parrott’s unexpectedly rapid progress — by Friday the state had approved nearly 80 percent of the needed petition signatures — has surprised and delighted Republican leaders. They’re now confident that the tuition law will be put before the voters in 2012, which means it will be suspended until then.
And that success, driven by technological savvy as well as populist anger, has emboldened a party that stumbled in last year’s elections and has little muscle in Annapolis. Republicans vow to harness technology to power other petition drives, and to challenge more laws passed by the General Assembly.
If Parrott’s Internet-driven model can be replicated on other issues, the minority party will have a potent new tool to oppose hot-button legislation — and the potential to alter the balance of power in Maryland.
If the petition drive is successful and the law is overturned by voters, Republicans “may have an alternative route to impact legislation that bypasses the General Assembly,” said Todd Eberly, coordinator of public policy studies at St. Mary’s College.
But he and others say that it won’t be this easy every time.
Political leaders and observers note that the tuition law — which allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state rates at Maryland’s network of state colleges and universities — inflames passions like few others.
There is additional discussion in both the article and the editorial (here) about whether Parrott’s initiative and leadership will translate into anything substantial for the state GOP. I hate to be a wet blanket, but it all depends on whether other Republican Senators and Delegates are able to get more gumption to stand up to the majority party than we have here-to-fore seen in the Maryland General Assembly.
Maybe it will just take this outpouring of support for the Parrott petition drive to show Maryland GOP lawmakers that they can fight for conservative principles after all—that they do have a constituency out here!