Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marylanders Defending the Vote

from the Baltimore Sun
Del. Patrick McDonough is assembling a legal team to help fight a court challenge against a popular petition seeking to repeal the MD Dream Act, a controversial law that would give illegal immigrants discounted in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges and universities.

McDonough (pictured on the right) said that the petition is so important that it "ranks up there with Oxygen" and wants to ensure that legal challenges fail so voters can determine whether the law should be implemented. The question is set for the 2012 ballot.

He said he will add himself to the case as an intervenor next week.

Earlier this month the immigrant rights group CASA de Maryland filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the in-state tuition petition, which attracted nearly 109,000 valid signatures. Should the petition survive this legal challenge it will trigger the first state-wide referendum on a General Assembly-passed law in 20 years.

McDonough shared other gripes: He believes that Judge Ronald Silkworth, the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge assigned to the case, should remove himself because of a previous ruling.

Last year Silkworth tossed out a county-wide referendum effort on whether a casino should be constructed at Arundel Mills saying the ballot initiative would be would be illegal because the legislation to authorize the billion-dollar casino was part of an appropriation package. According to state law, appropriations - or spending allowances - cannot be decided upon by voters at the ballot box.

CASA de Maryland and its allies are making a similar argument to overturn the in-state tuition petition -- saying that the bill is budget related because it will trigger millions in state costs.

"He has prejudiced himself," McDonough said of the judge. A call to Silkworth's chambers has not been immediately returned.

With the slots referendum, Judge Silkworth's decision was overturned by the state's highest court. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals never released their reasoning. McDonough also wants that document made public, saying it will help guide legal strategy on both sides.

David Paulson, a spokesman for Attorney General Douglas Gansler said their office will not join McDonough's request to have the opinion released. Paulson said his office "respects" the high court's decision making process "and the time it may take to issue an opinion."

Gansler, a Democrat, leads the office responsible for defending state agencies. His lawyers will argue in court for the petition to go forward, as the state Board of Elections ruled.
More from Del. Patrick McDonough from The Dagger

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