O’Malley has pen ready for Dream Act

200 other bills await Md. governor’s signature

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign a bill Tuesday that would allow in-state college tuition for many illegal immigrants, as opponents fight to repeal the legislation and force a 2012 referendum.

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, is scheduled to sign more than 200 bills Tuesday in Annapolis, including the Dream Act, which would allow in-state tuition rates for many college-aged children of illegal immigrants who pay taxes.

The legislation is one of 707 bills passed during this year’s 90-day General Assembly, which ended April 11.

Maryland would become the 11th state to allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants while lawmakers in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas are trying to repeal such laws. A federal version failed last year in Congress.

The Dream Act has been one of Maryland’s most controversial bills this session and is the only bill receiving a serious referendum effort.

Opponents are gathering signatures to suspend the legislation and force a November 2012 statewide vote on the issue. They must collect more than 55,000 valid voter signatures by June 30, more than 18,000 of which must come by May 31.

Delegate Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, also has threatened legal action, saying he will sue the state this summer, regardless of whether the petition is successful.

“I think [the governor] should just take that pen and stab the taxpayers and lawful students in the state in the back with it, because that’s what he’s doing,” Mr. McDonough said.

Mr. O'Malley has yet to approve many of the assembly’s most noteworthy proposals, including the Dream Act, the state’s $34 billion budget and a bill increasing the state alcohol sales tax from 6 percent to 9 percent, effective July 1.

The governor signed 163 bills into law April 12, including several health care reforms and legislation barring most employers from checking job applicants’ credit histories. He is expected to sign all remaining bills Tuesday and May 19.

A late-April bill signing was canceled because of the memorial services and funeral for former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Mr. O'Malley has not indicated that he will veto any bills but has received heavy pressure from environmental groups to reject one that would classify waste-to-energy incinerators as top-tier renewable energy sources.

The legislation would allow the facilities to receive financial credits on par with those offered to solar- and wind-energy providers, which opponents argue could take away from solar and wind efforts and decrease the incentive for recycling trash rather than burning it.

The O’Malley administration declined to comment, saying it will issue a statement Tuesday.

The governor spoke in support of waste-to-energy plants last month but is still considering the issue, according to his representatives.

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