Tea Party gearing up for in-state tuition referendum

By Glynis Kazanjian

For MarylandReporter.com

Boxes of TeaTea Partiers across Maryland are saying the referendum effort to repeal newly passed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition rates is exactly the fight they’ve been waiting for.

“There’s no question we are going to be involved,” said Potomac Tea Party blogger Ann Corcoran.  “And it goes beyond the in-state issue.  This is an opportunity to broaden our reach to Democrats, independents and those who see this as a fairness issue, and we see this as a fabulous opportunity to organize conservatives across the state of Maryland in preparation for 2012.”

The referendum drive has been spearheaded by former Hagerstown Tea Party leader Neil Parrott, who won election to the House of Delegates as a Republican last year. He and Del. Pat McDonough, R, will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. in Annapolis today to formally roll out their plan to collect the 55,736 signatures needed by June 30.

No single leader or group

Much like the structure of the national Tea Party, there is no single leader or group in charge of the referendum efforts in Maryland.  There are at least 30 identifiable Maryland Tea Party groups representing thousands of members across the state.

One of the larger groups participating in the referendum process, Maryland Society of Patriots, has over 1,700 Facebook followers and about 1,000 e-mail addresses of people from Montgomery County, Baltimore County and the Eastern Shore.

“We are planning on aiding as much as we can in the referendum effort,” said founder Sam Hale. “We are planning on holding a meeting in Montgomery County on May 5 to rejuvenate and reorganize our activists.”

Dave Wallace, an organizer for Restore America’s Mission, has helped bus hundreds of Marylanders to Tea Party events in Washington.  His group, which has about 700 “activists,” will also help to collect signatures for the referendum.

“It’s a responsibility that government not go and help finance lawbreakers, and that’s exactly what this is,” Wallace said. “This is the wrong direction,”

The Department of Legislative Services estimated the tuition discounts will cost taxpayers $750,000 in 2014 and increase to $3.5 million by 2016. But the cost could be significantly higher than that since it is based only on the experience of Montgomery College, according to a March 14 story in MarylandReporter.com.

GOP not in a lead role

While dozens of Tea Party groups across the state are gearing up for the signature drive, the Republican Party has taken a less aggressive stance.  Maryland GOP spokesman, Ryan Mahoney said the party will not take a lead role in the signature collection drive.

“This is an effort that is going to be led by Del. Parrott,” Mahoney said. “It’s bigger than any one political party, but with any legislation that’s damaging to Maryland taxpayers, the Republican party is here to provide logistical support and resources to insure Maryland has laws that are moving us in the right direction, not backward.”

Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group which helped organize some initial Tea Party events in Maryland, will have no role.  “We will not be participating, and we have no comment,” said Deputy State Director Nick Loffer.

McDonough told Fox 45 TV he may pursue legal action against the state board of elections for delaying the approval of signature petition language.  Final petition language was approved April 21, eight days after it was first filed by Parrott.

State elections board spokeswoman Donna Duncan said the bill summary text was originally ruled insufficient by Assistant Attorney General Jeff Darsie, and the board fully complied with its requirements during the approval process.

The state board of elections has five business days from the time it receives an application request to make a determination and an additional two business days to notify the sponsor of its response, Duncan said, quoting from Articles 6-202 and 6-210 in the election law handbook.

Whether the signatures collected prior to the April 21 petition approval will be counted is another story. Duncan said it would be depend on what was on the back of the petition. It is supposed to include “the full text of the Act; or a fair and accurate summary of the substantive provisions of the Act, which has been approved by the Attorney General,” according to the election board regulations. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Duncan said.

The in-state tuition bill was originally scheduled to be signed on Monday by Gov. Martin O’Malley, but due to the funeral for former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the signing was delayed and is now expected to take place May 10.  Undocumented high school graduates would be eligible to receive the tuition discount at community colleges beginning next fall.

Bill supporter critical of repeal efforts

One of the bills lead sponsors, Sen. Roger Manno, D-Montgomery, criticized the repeal efforts.

“The referendum to overturn the bill is a distraction from the major challenges facing the State — namely, getting people back to work, fixing the budget, and maintaining our investments in providing the best K-12 education in the nation,” Manno said. “This referendum effort could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Gretchen

    The Tea Party is a wet noodle.  They are “JUST” gearing up for this fight.  The fight has been won …duh….Maybe the Tea Party should have been out in front of this issue instead of rallying behind their idiot patron saint Sarah Falin.  What is the point of staring a ‘new’ party and acting just like the ones already in existence???!!!!   NO POINT.

  2. Gretchen

    Delegate Neil C. Parrott had the common sense to put his support behind the citizens of Maryland.  How do Democrats (Busch, Miller) think that during these times of great loss and recession that they get to STEAL our monies and use it to assist those people here illegally.  There are children born here they aren’t assisting. 
    In connecticut a homeless mother was charged criminally because she dared place her child in a good school system outside of his ‘home’ district.  Why hasn’t someone SUED an illegal immigrant parent for placing their children in a school system that MY tax dollars fund?  Everyone wants to trump the race card: frankly I don’t care if you are from Ghana, Romania or Mexico if you are here illegally it is time to go home.    The republicans are scum and so are the democrats but on this issue, the Repblican Delegate Parrott is dead on!!!!!  The Media from the Washington Post to The Crab Wrapper want to shove illegal immigrants down our throats and we sit by and suck it up. 
    If President Obama takes condoning ppl here illegally being given a ‘pathway’ to Legalization then why didn’t bush, clinton or obama try to assist those ppl incarcerated for have just a little pot:  just enough for 10 or 20 cigarettes?  Why is someone breaking our laws condoned because they either have money (wall street liars and criminals), are potential votes for  the Dems (Illegal immigrants) yet others are penalized for stealing a tv set?????  What’s the difference, it is all STEALING from MY pocketbook one way or the other!!!

    Still, Casa isn’t worried about the petition drive and won’t mobilize against it until Parrott’s group proves it has the needed signatures, Propeack said.
    Because they know that the likes of Democrat politicians will continue to STEAL from maryland citizens to fund and promote Casa!!! VOTE THEM OUT PLEASE.  VOTE OUT EVERY DEMOCRAT WHO SIGNED THE BILL.

  3. Keanede

    The took away 50% of the in county tuition for the manpower shortage program. My son has to pay an addition 2,200 a year for a community college. Born in the US. This coinsides with the new dream act. So if we don’t have the money for the manpower shortage program, where is this other grant program money coming from? Did the million dollars the state took from the manpower shortage program go to the dream act? The figures suggestion they do. For the delegate who supported and sponsered this bill to say, Delegate Parrot is misleading the people, he is the one that is wrong. Each county has tax dollars go to the support of the college, then the state supports the college and finally the tuition funds from the college students. Where does this guy think money come. Let me help him. Tax dollars. He states that the illegals pay taxes. How? If they pay income taxes, whose social security number are they using. You don’t reward bad behavior. Parenting 101. There is more to helping society then providing a good education to everyone. You are telling society the ends justifies the means. Basically its okay to break the law, what do you want for a reward. Go down register with immigration and start earning your rights. Life stinks, get in line with everyone else. You can not expect someone to give you everything because life was hard. It was for me too. I had to pay for my education on a minimum wage job. My parents had no money to help and I did it by myself. No funds from the government. Its called hard work. Nothing is free.

  4. justice

    Too bad the Tea Party has been doing nothing in Maryland until now. In Virginia, the Tea Party actually went to the legislature and pushed legislation. In Maryland, the Tea Party was absent on every issue. There is NO record of any variation of any Tea Party group ever testifying or lobbying in Annapolis this year. Now, after the bill has been passed they seem to be ready to get involved.

    Maybe next session, the Tea Party Groups will realize that their involvement might be more effective BEFORE a bill becomes law.

    Speaking as a legal immigrant, I am outraged that we need to gather signatures to get our say. Wish the Tea Party was more about action where it counts and less about playing catch-up after the fact.

  5. Anonymous

    Would that Sen. Manno was as concerned about every MD taxpayer instead of focusing on this special interest issue! Would it be too sarcastic to think that subsidizing the COLLEGE education of these so called New Americans would result in more votes for the Democrats?

    As a non-Tea Party member but a proud Independent, I look forward to signing this petition & placing it before the voters of MD. We can no longer afford to subsidize the educational benefits for illegals. Sorry that their parents brought them here illegally, but If Sen Manno was so concerned about fixing the budget so that we can continue to educate legal MD children, then why did he vote for a bill that diverts funds to subsidize illegal adult students?

    Give the voters a chance to speak at the ballot box. Since we are so flush to increase the 2012 state budget 3% while adding to taxpayers burden with increases in “if it comes out of my pocket, it’s a tax” FEES, then we can afford to place this extremely important issue on the ballot!

  6. Annoyed

    What is legal about being “illegal.” This bill should have never gotten this far. Why should legal taxpayers pay for illegal individuals to go to school. I am not usually a Tea Party supporter but I am going to sign this referendum.

  7. Brad

    Obviously this article is an example of exemplary non-biased reporting. : ^

    You either have a country or you don’t. Allowing people to break the law without punishment deteriorates the social contract. We should no more allow illegal immigrants an easy path than we should allow bankers to defraud the American public.

  8. marge

    as corrupt as this very liberal state is, i don’t hold much hope. They fudge numbers on elections so why not this!! Its a sellout corrupt state..

  9. jackie

    For more info contact Neil Parrotts office.. Keri Snyder at mdpetitions@gmail.com and the petition phone number is 410-774-0121.

    Thank you all for everything you’re doing and if you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

    • Dfj643

      Thank you for the contact info. as I want to sign the petition.

    • Gretchen

      Why hasn’t anyone sued a parent, the state for using our tax dollars to pay for free education from Kindergarten to high school.  This is not about the children.  It is not their fault.  But, the decisions of their parents and our state are at fault and who is going to take this issue on.  See the likes of Don Dwyer (with his ignorant self) should have been addressing these issues while in office vs his other fanatical obsession: homophobia!  Why did he FAIL to take on the issue of border babies, why did he FAIL to strip the executive branch of their monies and perks????  FAILURE is the word.  He was more concerned with personal nonsense than actually fighting for citizens of Maryland. 
      If a poor child has a crack smoking mother, that child too often pays for the actions of that parent.  It is NOT fair but we all seem to be able to live with that fact.  We don’t value poor folk in America.  But, when it comes to deporting illegals back home we want to cry over the poor kids.  Why is there a separation?  Why are poor children here dismissed but our care and concern goes out to those here illlegally bc of choices their parents made?!


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