Topeka As of today, the state's official language will be English, for whatever that's worth - and for some, that's not much.
Aside from declaring the official language, the law also says no state or local government agency is required to provide documents or hold meetings in any language except English. But it also says nothing prevents them from offering documents in another language or using interpreters at meetings.
"It declares the policy of the state. It doesn't do much beyond that," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt. "It doesn't do any harm and gives comfort to those who feel English is in peril. My grandparents used to speak German in their home, and I don't think the state is any worse off for that."
Supporters believe the law will encourage immigrants to learn English, which would help them get better-paying jobs and assimilate into society.
But Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who signed the bill, said it wasn't necessary and didn't do enough to help people learn English. Legislators at one point included $500,000 for teaching English but later removed the money.
The official English law is among 147 taking effect today. An additional 47 laws took effect before that, and eight more won't kick in until later.
Altogether, Sebelius signed 202 bills, compared with 216 last year and 177 in 2005.
"It's probably an indication of coming out of the deep freeze after seven years of dealing with school finance and budget crisis," said Schmidt, R-Independence. "There were a lot of little things waiting patiently that finally got taken care of this year."
For some Hispanics, the English law is both meaningless and insulting. At least 29 other states have made English their official or common language.
"You can't coerce people to learn English by taking away services in a language other than English," said Raul Gonzalez, legislative director of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
Gonzalez said such laws are a sign of frustration among state officials over the federal government's failure to implement a meaningful immigration policy as the number of illegal immigrants in the nation increases daily.
"Symbolically it might make them feel they are accomplishing something, but it won't change the lives for the better for anybody in Kansas," he said.
And, he said, such laws send the wrong message.
"For many of us, our language is part of our heritage and one way we identify ourselves as a group. It's an insult to say the language of our forefathers isn't worthy of being heard in the public," Gonzalez said.
A funeral-picketing law also will go on the books today, although it's not enforceable until it's declared constitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The law was prompted by the Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers at Westboro Baptist Church protesting at funerals of soldiers killed in combat. They say the deaths are God's punishment for a nation harboring homosexuals and their protests are a form of religious expression.
In May, Attorney General Paul Morrison, at the legislators' behest, filed a lawsuit intended to obtain a ruling from the state's highest court. No hearing date has been set.
The law says protesters can't be within 150 feet of a funeral one hour before, during or two hours after the end of the service. It also makes it unlawful to obstruct any public street or sidewalk and allows family members to sue if they feel protesters defamed the deceased - an exception to the rule of law that the dead can't be libeled or slandered.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, the Westboro's attorney and Fred Phelps' daughter, believes the law is unconstitutional and has said that even if a court upholds it, it won't stop the protesters because they picket beyond the boundaries it sets.
The first of the month also marks the start of the new fiscal year, when the $12.5 billion state budget takes effect. It increases aid to public schools, provides $50 million to help fix crumbling higher education buildings, boosts spending on social services and gives pay raises and bonuses to state employees. It also allows the state to expand its prison system to avoid unwanted overcrowding.
Also taking effect today are laws designed to cut the tax burden of businesses and some residents.
The tax businesses pay for the privilege of operating in Kansas will start phasing out, saving them $135 million over five years. After that, it will be fully phased out and will save businesses about $45 million a year.
Legislators said eliminating the tax will improve the business climate and create jobs, but Sebelius said it could create revenue problems for the state in future years.
Other cuts will help seniors by exempting Social Security retirement benefits from state taxes, increase a property tax refund for home owners 55 or older and increase a tax credit for the working poor.