By RYAN RAUZON
Officials involved with the proposal to make English the official language of the state expressed mixed feelings on Tuesday about the Utah State Fair Corporation’s decision to ban signature collectors from the fairpark.
Their efforts to pass a citizen initiative proposal, however, haven’t dimmed in light of the recent conflict.
Rep. Tammy Rowan, R-Orem, said John Slevin and John Guido’s actions are not good for her efforts in behalf of English-only legislation.
“It doesn’t help us,” Rowan said. “If I had a say in it, I’d rather not be militant in collecting signatures. It makes us look like extremists.”
Rowan also said the state fair corporation is being “money hungry” by making everyone with an interest buy a booth.
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Rowan said. “The fairpark doesn’t need to be so strict in trying to wring every cent out of the people involved with the state fair.”
Rowan’s efforts to pass an English-only bill in the ’97 and ’98 legislative sessions failed both times. In 1998, the bill never made it out of committee meetings, despite her pleading with committee members. She still hopes to see the proposal pass.
In order to pass the citizen’s initiative proposal, Rowan needs signatures from 5 percent of the state’s registered voters.
“Other groups in Utah have been working toward passing this proposal,” Rowan said. “(Selvin and Guido) aren’t the only ones.”
One of those groups, Utah for a Common Language, works with U.S. English, a nationwide grass-roots organization committed to making English the official language of the country.
Steve Irizarry, Deputy Director of Government Relations for U.S. English, said the state fair’s decision is in conflict with their freedom of speech.
“This is a gross violation of the United States constitution,” Irizarry said.
U.S. English works with more than 8,000 supporters of English only legislation in Utah.
“We need 50,000 signatures in order to pass the citizen’s initiative proposal,” Irizarry said. “We’re half way there right now. At the rate we’re going, we’ll have the necessary signatures by late October.”
Irizarry said the success they’ve found is due in large measure to what people like Selvin and Guido are doing. He said he hopes the ACLU wins the case.
“The funny thing is that the ACLU is adamantly opposed to English-only legislation,” Irizarry said. “It just goes to show you that, as an organization, the ACLU remains true to their principles.”