Greenip backs limit on driver's licenses

CAPITAL NOTEBOOK

January 27, 2007

A state senator is pushing to prohibit Maryland from giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, a proposal sure to reignite a heated debate in Annapolis over the rights of undocumented residents.

Sen. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said her bill is designed to make Maryland comply with the federal Real ID Act, a law that essentially prohibits states from giving licenses to illegal immigrants.

If Maryland doesn't comply, Greenip said, the state's licenses won't be accepted for any federal purposes, such as passing through airport screening. But she said she also believes as a policy matter that illegal immigrants should not be allowed to drive. "Illegal immigrants, illegal people should not have the privileges of legal people, and that's one privilege they should not have," Greenip said.

Maryland is one of just a handful of states where illegal immigrants can get licenses. Efforts to change the law have failed amid opposition from immigrant advocates, who say that licensing undocumented residents helps keep the roads safer. Banning illegal immigrants from getting licenses doesn't keep them from driving, advocates say, it just means they may not be trained in how to do so safely.

Andrew A. Green

End sought to scholarships

Taking up a cause his father pursued for years in the legislature, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, the minority whip from Howard County has proposed an end to legislators' ability to grant taxpayer-funded scholarships to Maryland students.

Kittleman, who succeeded his father, Robert, in the Senate after the elder Kittleman's death, said he wants to keep the money for the program - last year, it was $11.5 million - but to give it to the Maryland Higher Education Commission to distribute. Kittleman said the move would take the politics out of scholarships.

"Too often I see legislators going to a high school assembly and standing in front of 1,000 people and saying, `Thank me for giving you a scholarship.'" Kittleman said. "I'm very uncomfortable with it."

Similar efforts have routinely failed, as legislators have hung on to a privilege of their offices. Kittleman said he's not sure what his prospects are, but he does have a Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County.

Andrew A. Green

Eminent domain battle simmers

The fight over eminent domain is moving to the obscure world of state Senate rule changes.

Last year, an effort by Republicans to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot prohibiting government condemnation of private property for economic development failed to get a vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Many Democrats in the legislature wanted additional restrictions on eminent domain but were unwilling to support the all-out ban Republicans wanted. Preventing a committee vote - the traditional prerogative of a committee chair - kept Democrats from having to vote against restrictions on condemnation in an election year.

But Republicans managed to embarrass Democratic leaders anyway by proposing a constitutional referendum as an amendment during a floor vote.

Now both sides are attempting to change the rules to bolster their positions. Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the majority leader from Howard County, proposed a rule banning the kind of maneuver Republicans used last year. And Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, the minority whip, also from Howard County, proposed a rule requiring that all bills get a vote in committee. They are due to be debated by the Senate Rules Committee next week.

"That vote is going to be a vote on whether or not you want the citizens of Maryland to decide whether the government should take your property for economic development," Kittleman said. "However you vote on that rule is going to be considered a vote on eminent domain."

Andrew A. Green

Tuition for illegal immigrants

With a new governor in power who has pledged support for inclusive immigration policies, Maryland may join 10 other states in allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.

Illegal immigrants who attend Maryland high schools for a minimum of two years could benefit as early as this fall, if legislation is passed that would have the effect of reducing by more than half the out-of-state tuition they currently must pay. Cost savings for each student would average more than $8,000 per year. The bill would also require undocumented immigrants to seek permanent residency status.

Del. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George's Democrat, is the bill's primary sponsor. He said immigrants should be given a chance to succeed. "The least we can do, if we're allowing people to cut our yards, wash our cars, clean our houses for probably very cheap wages, the least you can do is let their children have an opportunity - that's the American way," he said.

But Del. Richard K. Impallaria, a Baltimore County Republican and a critic of the bill, said it was "the height of arrogance" for people in this country illegally to think they should be entitled to in-state tuition.

In Texas, which instituted a similar bill in the fall of 2001, in-state tuition forms at public universities don't require proof of citizenship or legal residency as is currently required in Maryland.

Ramirez said that Gov. Martin O'Malley told him he is familiar with the concept of his bill. "He [O'Malley] said he's inclined to sign it. So we feel optimistic that if we can get it to his desk that he'll sign it into law," said Ramirez.

Capital News Service

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