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Archive for Sunday, July 1, 2007

Official English among today’s new laws

Funeral picketing, state budget measures also go into effect

July 1, 2007

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— 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.

Funeral picketing

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.

State budget

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.

Comments

Ragingbear 6 years, 9 months ago

The Cajuns aren't going to like this Yogi.

The entire thing is stupid. We don't even speak English. Not true English anyways. We speak American, a branch of the English language. Just like how Australians speak Australian, and South Africans speak South African. They are all a branch of the English language, but they are NOT English.

What would this mean for us in the future? Will the government police our use of language? Will certain words be outlawed for not complying with the new Law? If this bill doesn't really mean anything, then why are we bothering with it? It is just another example at a desperate ploy by the government to placate people and waste tax money.

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Chief_Tonganoxie 6 years, 9 months ago

Kropotkin (Anonymous) says:

............ Karl Rove is the chief architect of this racist nonsense that accomplishes little but to set one ethnicity against another...........

This law is worthless. If Americans want to speak German or Spanish or Navajo then let them. I would like to know more about how Karl Rove orchestrated this?

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75x55 6 years, 9 months ago

b3 - don't you realize that you're an 'idiot' 'racist', since americorps has seen a few boobs outside the US that have been less-than-worldly travelers?

Don't you realize that the same expectations americorps has of Americans outside the country means that YOU are an 'idiot' 'racist' for having the same expectations of those "traveling" in the US?

Good golly - it's amazing how many people must be 'idiot racists' by the americorps definition... including americorps himself/herself.

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b3 6 years, 9 months ago

If you cant speak english learn it or leave.

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zettapixel 6 years, 9 months ago

Oracle! This is America! Speak Spanish!

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Marion Lynn 6 years, 9 months ago

Wilbur_Nether:

Don't get too excited about letters in LJW posts which should be capitalised and are not as I have noticed that there is a glitch in the software which sometimes changes upper to lower case, especially if the cap is inside the sentence. Even if you type in upper case, the software sometimes over-rides you.

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jonas 6 years, 9 months ago

"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."

Hahahahahaha! Funny truth!

"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."

Hmmmm. . . . insightful truth!

Another waste of legislation. Yippee.

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Oracle_of_Rhode 6 years, 9 months ago

Quelle horreur! Je suis trÃs triste pars-que Kansas est l'endroit des idiots comme les gens dans la legislature. C'est un cas de xenophobie, simplement.

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Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

& americorps gets to use the "r" word again and earns a Godwin flag in the same post. Go, you!

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gbeck 6 years, 9 months ago

I happen to agree with Mr. Gonzalez when he says "For many of us, our language is part of our heritage and one way we identify ourselves as a group."

As Mr. Gonzalez speaks for the interests of group termed "La Raza" Americans I too look forward to the day a politician speaks up for my group's interest that is "White Americans".

Thankyou Mr. Gonzalez.

G. Beck statelinestar

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americorps 6 years, 9 months ago

What a bunch of idiots, I am so sick and tired of my fellow American's blowing smoke, but not actually offering anything of substance.

Being heavily involved in the EXPAT community, I can tell you as a matter of fact that a large portion of Americans who live abroad do not bother to learn the local language and expect to be served in English.

If we really cared about this as an American Value, we would be outraged that American's do not practice what we preach, but the people posting here only want the rule to apply to immigrants, mostly Mexican, legal or not....

That shows the anti immigrant movement is being fanned by racists.

There are legitimate issues about securing our borders and controling immigration, but they are seldom heard with the abovementioned KLAN and NAZI lovers leading the parade.

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Wilbur_Nether 6 years, 9 months ago

frwent wrote: "This is America. We speak english [sic]."

But apparently we don't write it according to any of the rules of grammar I ever learned.

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Frank Smith 6 years, 9 months ago

Schmidt is right in (almost) declaring the "English Only" bill as a time-waster, but it's a key component of the tactics of the ultra-right in our country intended to divide us all. Karl Rove is the chief architect of this racist nonsense that accomplishes little but to set one ethnicity against another.

For example, Connie Morris, the disgraced and disgraceful former State Board of Education member, exploited that "wedge strategy" and advocated to unconstitutionally forbid the teaching of the children of undocumented workers. She even claimed that the 3rd generation Kansan mayor of Garden City who ran for her seat was an illegal alien.

Schmidt is also responsible for his own share of time-wasting. At the behest of his billion dollar corporation contributors, the GEO Group, he tried for years to repeal the Kansas ban on dangerous new for-profit prisons. Each year, moderate House Republicans and Democrats got more and more irritated by this bald-faced proposal to export living wage jobs as profits to corporations run by multi-millionaires, based outside Kansas and even outside the U.S. His sponsors actually attempted bundling their special-interest legislation with Jessica's Law, lobbying for a bill that guaranteed a permanent rise of 1,000 beds in the Kansas prison population. That would have cost Kansas taxpayers well over $20,000,000 a year by 2012 and would have risen steadily afterward until mid-Century. GEO maintained that they could build their low-wage, escape-prone prisons and supposedly "save" us money. Nothing could be further from the truth. In effect it was as if they had told us they'd poisoned us, and then offered to sell us the antidote.

Call it like it is. These are simply useless though odious attempts at legislation that were never intended for the benefit of Kansans at all.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 9 months ago

"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. .......Well, Mr Gonzalez, if you need to continue to identify yourselves "as a group", then why not just spare yourselves the difficulty and go back to the country you love so much, who's heritage is so special, who has provided you with such a devotion and largess, and leave our culture alone? If you so dearly love the legacy of your forefathers, why do you disrespect their country by coming to ours? Why do you feel that you have the right to come here to the United States to try to make over our land in the image you wish to project. Why do you feel that Americans who love and respect their culture, language and background somehow make you pissed off? In the past, many millions have immigrated to this country and assimilated themselves into the United States, they gave up their old country ways and became Americans.

WHY THE HELL CANNOT YOU AND YOUR SO-SPECIAL "GROUP" DO THE SAME. This is America. We speak ENGLISH. We have American culture here. If you do not like this, if you cannot follow the past history of millions of former immigrants, then GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE and go back to the country who's culture you so highly value.

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