Thursday, June 2, 2011

62,000 sign anti-DREAM Act petition • Top Stories ( - The Capital)

62,000 sign anti-DREAM Act petition • Top Stories ( - The Capital)

Opponents of the DREAM Act turned in 62,000 signatures to the state last night in hope of forcing a referendum on the new law.

Pamela Wood — The CapitalStanding outside the state Board of Elections in Annapolis, organizers of a petition drive to overturn the DREAM Act announce they have at least 40,000 signatures. The group includes, from left: Del. Nic Kipke of Pasadena, Del. Pat McDonough of Baltimore and Harford counties, Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County, Del. Ron George of Arnold and Del. Steve Schuh of Gibson Island. All are Republicans.
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That's more than the 40,000 signatures organizers of the petition drive predicted earlier in the day and significantly more than the 18,579 needed to keep the drive alive.

The signature sheets will be distributed to local elections officials, who will verify the signatures over the next 20 days.

"The reason this is resonating with voters is because this is a bad bill," said Del. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who is leading the effort to put the DREAM Act to a public vote on the 2012 ballot.

The DREAM Act would allow students who are not in the country legally to pay in-state college tuition rates - first at community colleges, then at four-year state colleges and universities.

It was a divisive bill that split lawmakers during the recent 90-day General Assembly session in Annapolis.

Opponents of the bill hope to get the measure on the ballot, so that voters can defeat it.

Del. Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, has led the signature effort in Anne Arundel County and said the jurisdiction was responsible for more than 8,600 signatures.

He said people knocked on his door all yesterday to bring him signed petition sheets. He eventually had to put a basket outside his door.

The petition drive "is getting bigger and gaining support," Kipke said. He said 600 signatures were collected in three hours at the Brumwell's flea market in Pasadena over the weekend.

The deadline for submitting signatures is the end of June. Petition teams will have tables at major events and about a dozen local businesses have agreed to post petition sheets in their stores.

Organizers have relied on the Internet, promoting, a website that allows people to print out signature sheets. They've spent about $5,000 on the effort.

Del. Ron George, R-Arnold, said people have been coming in to sign petitions at his jewelry stores, in downtown Annapolis and Severna Park, including many Democrats and independent voters.

Del. Steve Schuh, R-Gibson Island, said supporters of the referendum aren't against immigration - they're against helping people who are illegal immigrants.

"We all fully support legal immigration in our state," he said.

Parrott said he hopes most of the signatures will be accepted by the local elections boards.

He said that as people mail in the petition sheets, volunteers have been checking them and sending them back if they might be questionable.

By the June 30 deadline, the petitioners need 55,736 valid signatures. The signatures turned in last night will count toward the total. The total represents 3 percent of the number of votes cast for governor in the last election.

Parrott said he hopes to have at least 100,000 signatures, which would be insurance in case some signatures are invalidated.

Opponents of the DREAM Act argue that it's a costly bill that gives an unfair benefit to people who have broken the law.

Supporters, including Gov. Martin O'Malley and the immigrant-rights group Casa de Maryland, say the bill will create a better-educated work force. And they say children shouldn't be punished for mistakes their parents may have made.

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