State Journal: Ballot backfire; Flat political football; Early morning indigestion

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Backers of an "official English" amendment to Colorado's constitution were hoist with their opponents' petard recently, when a federal judge ruled that petitions to place the measure on the November ballot should, in some cases, have been printed in Spanish.

In a Sept. 16 decision, U.S. District Judge James Carrigan ruled that the Colorado Official English Committee's failure to circulate Spanish-language petitions violated the rights of non-English speakers under the federal Voting Rights Act. The state, which had previously upheld the validity of the English-only "English only" petitions, plans to appeal the ruling, which bars it from placing the measure on the ballot.

The proposed amendment simply states that "the English language is the official language of the state of Colorado." Supporters say it is needed to encourage the assimilation of speakers of foreign languages into the American mainstream; opponents counter that the backers are less interested in improving English skills than in restricting the use of other languages by minorities.

Gov. Jim Martin of North Carolina is still smarting over the legislature's decision this summer to punt his plan to create a $3.5-million pilot preschool program for "at risk" 4-year-olds.

"I do not consider the needs of our families to be a political football to be kicked back and forth between the opposing teams and beaten flat in the process," he said in a speech last month. "If we insist on fighting over who has ownership rights of the issue on the political playground, we might find in the meantime that the ball has rolled into the street and been flattened in heavy traffic."

Gov. Wallace Wilkinson of Kentucky decided last month to replace Clay Parks, the state board of education chairman whose term officially ended June 30, with Barney Tucker, a long-time education activist in the state.

The Governor's office, however, neglected to inform Dr. Parks of the change. He said he learned of the move secondhand while eating breakfast on Sept. 13, just minutes before he was to preside over a board meeting.

Dr. Parks told reporters he was not disappointed by the Governor's decision. He said he only wished that Mr. Wilkinson had complied with his request to decide on his replacement before his term expired.

Mr. Tucker was appointed to the Kentucky State University board of regents in 1980, and is an original member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.--tm

Vol. 08, Issue 05

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