Thursday, September 11, 2008

English-only revision allows exceptions

Crafton changes wording to try to satisfy critics By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • September 11, 2008 Eric Crafton is trying to regroup. Now that the Tennessee Supreme Court has refused to expedite his appeal to get the English-only initiative on Metro's Nov. 4 general-election ballot, Crafton is focusing on a winter special election and reworking his proposal to appease his critics. On Wednesday, the Metro councilman said a new drive requiring Nashville's government to communicate only in English would include language allowing the city to make exceptions for health and safety reasons. "We want to demonstrate that we're trying to be reasonable, that we want to listen to what people are saying while still making English the official language," Crafton said Wednesday in a phone interview. Crafton said new petition postcards would be mailed to some registered voters today or Friday. The petition would call for a special election on Thursday, Jan. 22, at a cost to taxpayers of about $350,000, to hold a referendum on changing the Metro Charter. Crafton's effort to get on the Nov. 4 general-election ballot was denied by a Davidson County chancellor last week. This week the Tennessee Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court shot down his attempts at appeal. The twin rulings effectively ended his bid to have the English-only issue decided this fall. Crafton's previous petition did not specify that Metro could make exceptions to the English-only law, but critics said the new wording wouldn't make much difference. "By excluding any provision for health and safety exceptions, the charter amendment will be ruled unconstitutional in about 10 minutes after it passes," Councilman Mike Jameson said via e-mail. "Mere assurances that necessary exceptions could be added later probably doesn't change that." The Metro Council passed a law in 2007 requiring the government to do business in English "except when required by federal law or when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare." Then-Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed the council's action, in part because city attorneys said even that version could be challenged on First Amendment grounds. Crafton said his own lawyers are confident the latest proposal would withstand legal scrutiny.

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