Parrott struggled in legislative debut

April 30, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND |

By most accounts, freshman Del. Neil Parrott is a nice, personable fellow whose political views sometimes do a disservice to the man. But then, that's probably true for a lot of us.

Parrott has succeeded well in life, personally and professionally. He was able to go to college and rise in his chosen field. You admire people like that.

And had Parrott's parents uprooted him when he was a boy and taken him to a foreign land, I'm sure he would have succeeded there as well, learning the language, succeeding scholastically, going to college and establishing himself in his chosen profession — paying taxes and becoming a valuable asset to his community.

By now Parrott probably knows where I am going with this.

Parrott's first session in the General Assembly did not go well, and that perhaps explains why he now feels the need to become point man in a foolish statewide fight to make college less affordable for undocumented students.

While other Western Maryland freshmen lawmakers such as Democratic Sen. Ron Young and Republican Del. Kathy Afzali were winning accolades from their peers, Parrott struggled to the point of embarrassment.

He campaigned on the issue of jobs, but once he was sworn into office it became clear he didn't have the foggiest idea how to create any. Instead, his signature piece of legislation revised the way that Maryland law treats the disposal of junk refrigerators.

This was supposed to be the vanguard of a fleet of bills that would reform and streamline state government. But these planned reforms never materialized, and soon it was pretty apparent that Parrott had no other ideas about streamlining state government that extended beyond kitchen appliances.

Parrott became comic relief to the metropolitan press corps: The Gazette poked fun at him for hosting a "rally" in Annapolis for a couple of vague causes involving federal directives and illegal immigrants. This mass rally attracted a throng of 11 people. "Granted," Gazette reporter Sarah Breitenbach wrote, "two of those 11 in attendance were reporters, two were delegates and two were staffers — officially outnumbering the five rabble-rousers who quietly sat listening to Parrott..."

The Gazette later listed Parrott as one of the session's "Losers" for his clownish amendments during the same-sex marriage debate that would have legalized incest and polygamy. The paper noted that "even fellow Republicans" were embarrassed by these grade-school antics and urged him to knock it off.

That's all a hard act to follow. But one needs to stay in shape during the offseason, so now, post-session, Parrott has anointed himself leader of a campaign to overturn the new law that will allow undocumented Maryland kids to enjoy in-state college tuition, provided their parents pay taxes and they have been in school for three years.

Parrott believes this bill, similar to ones in 10 other states, encourages lawlessness and costs us money. I don't know about the former. Maybe when choosing a place to live, illegal aliens swimming the Rio Grande consider whether, in 15 more years, their children will be eligible for in-state college tuition rates.

As for costs? Do we want to spend our tax money sending each illegal immigrant back home at several thousand dollars a pop — only to have them rush back across the border? Because that's the fact of the matter. Not to mention that the price of just about everything we buy, from groceries to houses, would rise significantly, because like it or not, our economy runs on a great, unseen, underpaid work force.

So you can sit around complaining about people with brown skin all you like, but they are subsidizing your lifestyle, probably to the tune of hundreds of dollars a year.

But those are practical arguments. Maybe the greater question that we all need to ask ourselves is this: Why do people such as Parrott, who have been blessed with so much, try to make a career out of denying a few crumbs to those who have so little?

What is there about our makeup that would cause us to act so meanly, so visciously, toward innocent kids we have never met? Kids who themselves have never done anything wrong. Kids who are happy cogs in their communities, who love this country and love its opportunities and want above all else to be given a chance to help make it even better.

Do the Neil Parrotts of the world feel better about themselves by beating down someone smaller and less fortunate than themselves? Or do they do it not because they care, but because it represents a golden key to re-election?

Maybe it's a little of both.

But time is a horrible thing for people who spend their existence trying to inspire fear and hatred among their countrymen. One day, Parrott will be overrun by the people he is trying to destroy. Because while Parrott offers us fear and loathing, these young immigrants offer optimism and hope. And in the long run, happiness will always defeat anger.

Maybe that is what Parrott is so afraid of.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. His wife campaigned for Parrott's opponent, Brien Poffenberger, in the past election. Rowland's email address is

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