Lawmakers kill plan to make English official state language |

Lawmakers kill plan to make English official state language

DENVER ” A House committee killed a ballot proposal on Tuesday making English the official state language after opponents said they didn’t need to learn English to be an American.

Rep. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said a constitutional amendment voters approved in 1988, which requires English only on state documents, is not enforceable because it has no teeth and similar measures have been struck down by the courts.

“We don’t want to become a nation that is split by a language other than English,” Schultheis told the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

The committee killed the referred measure (House Concurrent Resolution 1008) on a 6-5 vote.

The referred measure would have asked voters to require all state documents be printed only in English, unless other languages are required by the federal government for certain documents or for safety. The referred measure would have exempted libraries and public schools.

Rep. Fran Coleman, D-Denver, said the United States was founded as an immigrant nation and she said it was arrogant for U.S. citizens to try to tell other people what language they need to learn.

“I take great exception when you say you’re only American if you speak English,” she said.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1988 making English the official state language, but Gov. Roy Romer and Denver Mayor Federico Pena quickly issued executive orders directing that bilingual government information still be provided.

Schultheis said he wanted to clear up the issue by stipulating the law would apply to any printed or electronic document, publication, or other material issued by the state or any political subdivision. The previous amendment only said that English is the official state language.

Tim Schultz, director of government relations for U.S. English Inc., a public policy group that is trying to persuade other states to adopt similar measures, said Coloradans speak 123 languages, including 160,000 people who speak a language other than English or Spanish.

He said people need a common way to communicate, to call 911 for help and to pass the citizenship test, and 26 other states have adopted English as the official state language.

“Multilingual government should be the exception, not the rule,” Schultz told lawmakers. “We also should not become an English optional nation.”

Adrianne Benavidez, spokeswoman for the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, said laws that attempt to require people to speak English would violate civil rights.

“They foster anti-immigrant bigotry and intolerance,” she told lawmakers.

U.S. English Inc.:

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