Will any Iowa Democrat stand up for repealing the English-only law?

The Des Moines Register editorial board must have been reading my mind when they published another editorial calling on legislators to repeal Iowa's English-only law.

As I've written, Democrats who cut the deal to approve that law in 2002 assured us that it was a symbolic measure, and that plenty of exceptions were written into the law.

Last month a judge in Polk County ordered the Secretary of State's office to stop providing voter information in languages other than English. Secretary of State Mike Mauro has decided not to appeal that ruling.

Now Republicans are bent out of shape because the Iowa Department of Transportation published a public notice in Spanish as well as English:

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Ron Wieck, a Sioux City Republican, objected Thursday after he read a DOT public meeting notice in the Sioux City Journal printed in Spanish and English. It advised residents of a public hearing to discuss proposed improvements on Interstate Highway 29.

"We have spent an entire legislative session listening to the Department of Transportation state that they do not have the money they need for Iowa's infrastructure," Wieck said. "While I believe that a strong infrastructure is important, I am concerned with this type of frivolous spending. ...

"Instead of clamoring for more money from the taxpayers of this state, maybe we should look at our bloated bureaucracy and trim the fat."

What a joke. Who is harmed by a DOT public meeting notice in multiple languages? How much money would they save by printing all public meeting notices in English only--a few thousand dollars?

A representative of the DOT said they have printed public meeting notices in other languages as well as English for years. The Iowa Attorney General's office is currently reviewing whether this practice can continue despite the law making English the official state language.

Will any Democrat have the courage to introduce a bill to repeal this law? It's not as if adopting the law has prevented Republicans from scoring political points on this issue. As long as the law stands, Republicans will keep scouring public documents for any sign of Spanish or other languages so they can demagogue.

This is not about illegal immigration. This is about preventing government from effectively serving Iowa residents whose native language is not English. It's mean-spirited and unwelcoming, and I would like to see more leadership on this issue from our elected Democrats during the 2009 legislative session.

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