JEFFERSON CITY — No government body in Missouri has ever, to anyone's knowledge, conducted a meeting in a foreign language. A constitutional amendment on the November ballot aims to keep it that way.
The amendment would establish English as the language of all "official proceedings" such as meetings, telephone and videoconferences or Internet chats where government business is discussed or decided. Lawmakers approved the proposed amendment in 2007, setting up the public vote this November.
Proponents say the amendment, one of five on Missouri's Nov. 4 ballot, is necessary to avoid situations that have occurred in other states in which local governments have conducted meetings in other languages.
"Most supporters of the amendment recognize English as the primary language in the state," said Rep. Brian Yates, a Lee's Summit Republican who co-sponsored the legislation in the House. "If you're new to Missouri, you probably need to learn English."
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Many Democrats and immigrant-rights groups, however, say the amendment addresses a nonexistent problem and is intended more to bring out Republican voters than to improve public policy.
"Quite honestly, I've never heard of any public or state proceeding ever being conducted in a foreign language, nor have I ever heard of anyone ever asking to have it done," said Rep. Mike Talboy, a Kansas City Democrat.
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