Kansas: Measure calls for English as state's official language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sun Jan 14 16:49:46 UTC 2007

Measure calls for English as state's official language

By Tim Carpenter

The Capital-Journal Published Saturday, January 13, 2007

House Republicans began a push Friday to pass a law designating English as
the state's official language. The bill introduced in the House is among a
series of measures expected to be debated during the 2007 legislative
session that deal with immigration policy.  House Majority Leader Ray
Merrick, R-Stilwell, said the English-only bill made a statement about the
need of all residents, young and old, to become fluent in the state's
dominant language. The ability to speak English is an empowering tool for
immigrants, he said. "If you're going to be here and get ahead, you've got
to know the native language," he said. "It's good for them to assimilate."

The proposal is likely to get a lukewarm reception from Democrats in the
House and Senate who portray declaration of English as the official
language as an insignificant step in coming to terms with complex issues
of legal and undocumented immigration. "These are symbolic things that
don't address the underlying problem,"  said House Assistant Minority
Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita. He said steps need to be taken by the state on
issues related to penalizing businesses that knowingly hire undocumented
immigrants. The federal government ought to concentrate on strengthening
border security and efficiently deporting illegal aliens, he said.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said people living in
Kansas do need to learn English. However, he said, state government
shouldn't do anything to shut out individuals not fluent in the language.
"We are a nation of immigrants," Hensley said. He said that members of the
Legislature in the 1800s voted to publish copies of state documents in
German because there were so many people in the state speaking that
language. Two dozen states have English-only laws, including Colorado,
Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said during
her re-election campaign last fall that she would support English-only

The Republican nominee, Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, made passage of the
legislation a key element of his unsuccessful campaign. During the past 20
years, legislators have introduced at least 10 proposals to designate
English as the state's official or "common"  language, but none passed.
Under the proposed House bill, designation of English as the official
language would mandate that official public documents compiled, published
or recorded by the state deeds, probated wills, records of births, deaths
and marriages would be in English. In addition, no state agency or
political or taxing subdivision would be allowed to issue written
materials in any language other than English.

Exceptions to the law would allow use of another language to protect
public health, to protect a person's rights in a criminal or civil
proceeding, to provide instruction to people learning English, to promote
international commerce or to use phrases from other languages. The bill
also would require state agencies that produce materials in foreign
languages to account for the cost of producing those materials.



N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list