Kansas House Committee Adopts Proposal to Make English Official State Language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Mar 17 14:50:38 UTC 2007

Kansas House Committee Adopts Proposal to Make English Official State

Journal-World, Lawrence, Kan.  Scott Rothschild February 14, 2007

Feb. 14--TOPEKA -- Several Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday said they reached a
bipartisan compromise on a divisive subject: making English the official
state language. House Bill 2140 was recommended for approval by the House
Committee on Veterans, Military and Homeland Security. "English is the
common language of Kansas, and this bill affirms that by not unnecessarily
interfering with state agencies' or localities' essential communications
in other languages," Chairman Don Myers, R-Derby, said.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Candy Ruff of Leavenworth,
also supported the bill, saying it was improved since it was first
introduced. "In no way does this bill limit or denigrate the use of any
other language by a tribal government or any immigrant who chooses to live
and work in Kansas," Ruff said. The measure designates that English is the
official language of Kansas. Originally, Myers' bill said no governmental
entity was required to provide written materials in languages other than
English unless it was needed in certain circumstances, such as to protect
the public's health or in legal proceedings.

The changed bill keeps that provision but also makes clear that no
governmental entity shall be prohibited from publishing records and
documents in languages other than English. The new version also urges the
state education department to assist non-native speakers in finding
English language classes. "As a person who can say that English is my
second language, this legislation encourages those who are not proficient
to become fluent,"  said Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, and vice chairman of
the committee.

But several lawmakers continued to oppose the measure, saying it was
unnecessary. "I don't see the need for it," said Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays.
Phelps said there was no evidence that the English language "was under
attack" or that similar "Official English" laws in other states increased
English proficiency. He also said most communities with large immigrant
populations already were working on assisting them to learn English. In
addition, he said, the committee had more important issues to deal with
concerning returning military veterans. The bill now goes to the full
House for consideration.



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