Ballot Measure 6
Requiring Government to Use English


BALLOT LANGUAGE

This bill requires the state to use English in all government functions and actions. State records must be in English. "The state" means the legislature, all state agencies, local governments, school districts, public corporations and the university. Those entities may use non-English languages for international trade, emergencies, teaching languages, court suits, criminal inquiries, for elected officials to talk to constituents or to comply with federal law. Costs of non-English records must be identified. Persons who speak only English may not be denied state jobs or services. The bill does not affect private sector use of non-English languages.

SHOULD THIS INITIATIVE BECOME LAW?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]


LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AGENCY SUMMARY

This measure will make English the official language of the State of Alaska. English will be the language to be used by each public office in all functions. This measure will apply to each office of the state, to public corporations, and to local governments.

The government may use another language for some things. They are as follows:

A person who is not a public officer or employee may make a statement to the government in another language if it is changed into English and made a part of the record. The costs to do that and the cost of producing things in other languages will be a line item in the budget of each government office.

Most of the time the government may not require a person to know another language for a job. But, the government may require a public employee to know another language if it is needed to do an act that the government is allowed to do in a language other than English. No person may be denied a government service or benefit because the person knows only English. The government may not stop the use of another language in a private function. A person may sue to enforce this measure. The provisions of this measure are severable.


FULL TEXT OF PROPOSED LAW

Be it enacted by the people of the State of Alaska:

Section 1. Findings and Purpose
The people of the State of Alaska find that English is the common unifying language of the State of Alaska and the United States of America, and declare a compelling interest in promoting, preserving and strengthening its use.

Section 2. Official Language
The English language is the official language of the State of Alaska.

Section 3. Scope
The English language is the language to be used by all public agencies in all government functions and actions. The English language shall be used in the preparation of all official public documents and records, including all docu-ments officially compiled, published or recorded by the government.

Section 4. Applicability
This Act applies to the legislative and executive branches of the State of Alaska and all political subdivisions, including all departments, agencies, divisions and instrumentalities of the State, the University of Alaska, all public authorities and corporations, all local governments and departments, agencies, divisions, and instrumentalities of local governments, and all government officers and employees.

Section 5. Exceptions
(a) The government, as defined in Section 4 of this Act, may use a language other than English when necessary for the following purposes:

(b) An individual may provided testimony or make a statement to the government in a language other than English, if the individual is not an officer or employee of the government, and if the testimony or statement is translated into English and included in the records of the government.

Section 6. Public Accountability
All costs related to the preparation, translation, printing, or recording of documents, records, brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or other material in languages other than English shall be defined as a separate line item in the budget of every governmental agency, department, or office.

Section 7. Non-Denial of Employment or Services
(a) No governmental entity shall require knowledge of a language other than English as a condition of employment unless the requirements of the position fall within one of the exceptions provided in Section 5 of this Act, and facility in another language is a bona fide job qualification required to fulfill a function included within one of the exceptions.
(b) No person may be denied services, assistance, benefits, or facilities, directly or indirectly provided by the government, because that person communicates only in English.

Section 8. Private Sector Excluded
This Act shall not be construed in any way that infringes upon the rights of persons to use languages other than English in activities or functions conducted solely in the private sector, and the government may not restrict the use of language other than English in such private activities or functions.

Section 9. Private Cause of Action Authorized
Any person may bring suit against any governmental entity to enforce the provisions of this Act.

Section 10. Severability
The provisions of this Act are independent and severable, and if any provisions of this Act, or the applicability of any provision to any person or circumstance, shall be held to be invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of this Act shall not be affected and shall be given effect to the fullest extent practicable.


STATEMENT IN SUPPORT

A common language is common sense. That is why you should vote YES on Ballot Measure 6 to make English the official language of Alaska government.

This initiative has been overwhelmingly supported by Alaskans from all 40 voting districts and from all cultures, religions, and political parties.

Your fellow Alaskans support this bill because they know it makes sense. First, as our state population is becoming more diverse, this bill will help keep Alaskans unified by a common language. Second, in the Alaska tradition of limited government, this bill will prevent the increased bureaucracy and costs due to offering documents and services in multiple languages.

Opponents will try to scare you with misrepresentations and lies about what this bill does. Our response is simple: Read the actual text of Ballot Measure 6. You will see that it is a limit only on the government. Private citizens will still be able to use any language they want, anywhere, at any time.

Everyone agrees Alaska Native languages must be preserved and protected, so this bill has a specific exception for the Native American Languages Act. No matter what opponents say, this bill will have no impact on public or private use of Alaska Native languages!

The bill also has commonsense exceptions for things like public health and safety, police work, international trade, and the teaching of foreign languages.

There are 105 languages spoken in Alaska homes. Our diversity can be a strength, but only if we have one common language so everyone can talk to everyone else. Learning English empowers people to get better jobs and to integrate into Alaskan society. Mastery of English helps immigrants increase their incomes by 30%. We need to help people learn English, not discourage them.

As Americans and Alaskans, we share a commitment to democracy, equality, and freedom. But that shared commitment is only possible if we have a common language that allows us to talk to each other. Like our flag, the pledge of allegiance, and our national anthem, English as our official language is a symbol. These symbols remind Americans and Alaskans of every race, religion, and background of what we all have in common.

We Alaskans pride ourselves on common sense. We know, for example, that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Right now our state government uses English most of the time. By making English the official language, we make sure that Alaska will not end up like California, where they offer driver's license exams in 33 languages. Other states may offer routine documents and services in dozens of languages, but that does not make sense for Alaska.

Please join your fellow citizens in voting YES on Ballot Measure 6. Remember that English unifies our state, and this bill will prevent future problems. For Alaska, a common language is common sense.

Alaskans for a Common Language
Edgar Paul Boyko
(907) 274-1600, (888) 722-1699


STATEMENT IN OPPOSITION

Proponents of Ballot Measure #6 would have you believe that this law proclaiming English to be the "official language" of Alaska is as harmless as proclaiming the bald eagle to be the official bird of the United States. Don't be fooled! This law will have severe consequences for the many non-English speaking residents and citizens of Alaska.

1.) The proposed English-Only law does NOT protect Native languages. Although the proponents would have you believe that the Native American Languages Act protects Alaska Native languages from this English-Only law, that is incorrect. The courts have held that the Native American Languages Act is not enforceable against state and local governments. If Ballot Measure #6 passes, the business of local government, such as city council and school board meetings, in many Native villages would have to be conducted in English rather than in the local language which is easily comprehended by all.

2.) There is no need for an English-Only law in Alaska. For all practical purposes, English already is the common language in Alaska. This proposed English-Only law merely fosters divisiveness by saying to our indigenous and non-English speaking residents that they are not accepted in Alaska, even though many non-English languages and cultures predate English. The key to unity in Alaska is not to punish persons with either limited or no English proficiency by effectively precluding them from receiving essential government services and denying them access to the political process. The way this law is drafted, if a non-English speaking resident calls a government agency on the phone or goes into a government building seeking assistance, the government employees who greet this individual are prohibited from communicating in any language other than English even when they know the other language. This English-Only law will have the undesirable effect of making government less efficient and less responsive to the needs of Alaskans.

3.) The proposed English-Only law is based on unfair and inaccurate stereotypes of immigrants and indigenous peoples. This law falsely presumes that today's immigrants are not learning English and thus threaten the primacy of English as our common language. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's immigrants are striving to learn English as quickly as possible in order to acquire citizenship, succeed in business or succeed academically. Classes in English as a second language are over-subscribed and have long waiting lists. If anything, we should increase funding for classes to teach English rather than pass punitive laws which would in effect bar non-English speakers from receiving many services to which they are entitled.

4.) The proposed English-Only law is unconstitutional. This law violates Alaskans' constitutional rights to speak in the language of their choice and to petition their government for redress of grievances. Furthermore, this law violates Alaskans' constitutional right to equal protection of the laws.

Vote NO on Ballot Measure #6. The bond that unites our nation and our state is not linguistic or ethnic homogeneity but rather a shared commitment to democracy, liberty, equality, and tolerance.

Alaska Civil Liberties Union
Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director
(907) 276-2258


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