By Annapolis Notebook
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
One of the most emotional debates of the Maryland General Assembly session came shortly after 8 p.m. Monday as the House of Delegates took up a bill to allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in Maryland for a length of time to pay in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges.
They currently must pay out-of-state tuition.
Republican opponents said the General Assembly would be sanctioning illegal immigration and take away in-state spots from minority students who are legal residents of Maryland.
Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) told his colleagues, "We are aiding and abetting people who are in this state illegally." His voice rose in anger. "Welcome to Maryland. We are a sanctuary state. We will provide services to you. We will break the rule of law."
The comments infuriated many Democrats, who rose to speak for the bill. The most eloquent was Del. Melvin L. Stukes (D-Baltimore), who spoke with the fervor of a preacher. He compared opposition to undocumented students with the 1700s view of slaves as less than human.
"Do I need anyone to remind me of the mind-set that existed then and still exists today, that some people were considered three-fifths of a human being?" Stukes asked, his voice rising. "Are we still saying that some people are less than whole? I don't think so."
The bill passed 81 to 57. It now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
-- Lisa Rein
Court May Be Named for Judge
The Senate introduced a measure yesterday to rename the district court in Rockville, where L. Leonard Ruben, one of Montgomery County's best-known judges, collapsed and died last week.
Sen. P.J. Hogan (D-Montgomery) sponsored the late-filed bill renaming the courthouse in Ruben's honor.
Ruben, the husband of former Maryland state senator Ida G. Ruben, died outside the district courthouse in downtown Silver Spring on March 21, probably of a heart attack, his son said. Ruben was 81.
-- Ovetta Wiggins
Sudan Divestiture Bill Is Passed
The state pension board will have the authority to pull the state's investments from companies that do business with Sudan under a bill that has received final approval in the House and Senate.
The 2007 Darfur Protection Act does not require automatic divestiture. But Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) and Comptroller Peter Fran chot (D), who support the measure, said the pension board would use its authority to divest from companies that continue to do business with the Sudanese government.
The violence in the western region of Sudan has left more than 450,000 people dead since 2003. The country's Arab government has attempted to crush a rebel movement by destroying villages across Darfur, leaving more than 2.5 million homeless and languishing in refugee camps -- actions the U.S. government has labeled genocide.
-- Ovetta Wiggins
New PSC Members Sworn In
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) administered the oath of office yesterday to his four recent picks to serve on the embattled Public Service Commission, leaving them with this charge: "Go forth and regulate!"
With yesterday's event, Steven B. Larsen formally became chairman of the five-member panel that regulates Maryland's utilities, and Lawrence Brenner, Susanne Brogan and Harold Williams joined him.
During last year's campaign, O'Malley accused Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his PSC appointees of being too friendly with the industries they regulate.
Yesterday, the governor also submitted his third supplemental budget of the legislative session, which makes relatively minor tweaks to the $30 billion budget that lawmakers are expected to pass in coming days.
Among the changes are bumps in the salaries of PSC members. Larsen will make $185,000 a year, and other members will make $125,000.
O'Malley also suggests increases in funding for the University of Maryland at College Park, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and to facilitate the state's participation in a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
-- John Wagner