Angered by Gov. Jerry Brown's signing a bill to offer taxpayer assistance to illegal aliens applying to public colleges when the state is strapped for cash, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said Tuesday he has filed a referendum to repeal the law.
"We need 504,000 valid signatures," said Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), to qualify for the statewide ballot in either June or November 2012.
Donnelly said he filed papers with the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday. He estimated he already has lined up some 3,000 volunteer signature gatherers through a new website, his Facebook page and his office e-mail.
Brown's signing of the bill is also expected to add impetus to several already-begun efforts to recall Brown, Donnelly said. "There's chatter all over the Internet" about recall efforts, he said.
A.B. 131, written by Donnelly's Assembly seatmate, Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), would make qualifying illegal alien students attending public colleges and universities eligible to seek financial aid that could amount to thousands of dollars a year apiece.
The law, which Brown signed Saturday, takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013, far enough in the future to allow Donnelly to seek its repeal at the polls.
To qualify for aid, students must have attended high school for at least three academic years, register or be enrolled in an accredited state-funded college or university and pledge to apply for legal residency as soon as possible.
Donnelly said the bill "opens up Cal Grants A and B" to illegal immigrant students who meet those criteria.
According to www.csac.ca.gov, the website of the California Student Aid Commission, Cal Grants A offer up to $12,192 a year to University of California students; up to $5,472 to students at California State University campuses; and up to $9,708 to students attending independent colleges.
The website says B grants offer first-year students living allowances of up to $1,551, and, if approved for renewal, offer tuition and fee assistance of the same amounts as A grants for students in their second and subsequent years while attending two- and four-year colleges.
EAGER TO SIGN
Donnelly predicted voters will be eager to sign petitions to qualify his referendum for the ballot.
"They'll look at it and say, ‘I want my kid to do better than me.' They'll look at it and say, ‘we're going to take money we don't even have and give it to people who aren't even supposed to be here?'" Donnelly said.
Noting that such financial aid is not even available to U.S. military personnel, Donnelly predicted the new law "will create an incentive for more people to come here illegally." California is the 13th state to enact such legislation.
A.B. 131 is the second of two bills constituting the state's "Dream Act," providing college aid to illegal alien students. The first, A.B. 130, gives the students access to aid from private donations to public colleges and universities. It takes effect next Jan. 1.
Donnelly said the statutory time has passed for a referendum to repeal A.B. 130, which Cedillo also authored.
Cedillo was quoted in news stories this week as claiming the state has $20 million to $35 million set aside for aid under the new bill. Donnelly disputed that assertion.
"It's a flat-out lie," Donnelly said. "He made it up. We cut $1.2 billion out of the University of California system (during budget deliberations). If there was $20 to $35 million lying around, don't you think we would have grabbed it?"
But if such funds did exist, Donnelly said, he would prefer to earmark them partly for educating veterans returning from the Middle East or to train citizens for new jobs because of unemployment rates he said are running as high as 40 percent in some parts of California.
He compared the money invested in illegal alien students to the Solyndra scandal, in which the federal government gave a government-backed, $535 million loan to a solar energy company that later went bankrupt.
"You pour in tons of money (in grants) and get nothing out," he said, noting that when such students graduate they are likely to be prevented by their immigration status from finding work.
Donnelly said he expects widespread support for his referendum. So far, he said, 10 percent of those volunteering to circulate petitions are Democrats and 25 percent are Hispanics.
To qualify for the ballot, Donnelly said the law gives him 90 days from Oct. 8, when Brown signed the bill, to gather the needed signatures. He's shooting for about 700,000 to ensure having enough valid signatures, he said.
He can't begin circulation until he receives the referendum's official title and summary from the attorney general. The time required to prepare that language counts as part of the 90 days.
"The clock is already ticking," he said, adding that in one prior referendum it took 20 days to get to where organizers could print ballots.