unwittingly vote in English as official language
Apr. 12, 2005
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two days after
the end of the legislative session, state
lawmakers are discovering something few
were aware of: They voted to make English the official language of West
The language amendment was quietly inserted into a bill addressing the number of
members that cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation. Among mundane
details about record-keeping, the amendment adds the provision that "English
shall be the official language of the State of West Virginia."
Senate Majority Whip Billy Wayne Bailey successfully offered that change to
House Bill 2782 amid a flurry of bills moving back and forth between the House
and Senate on Saturday, the last night of the 60-day legislative session.
"I just told the members that the
amendment clarifies the way in which documents are produced," Bailey, a
Democrat, said Monday.
House Majority Leader Rick Staton recommended that his chamber agree with the
Senate's changes. But Staton, also a Democrat, said he was unaware of the
substance of the amendment until asked about it by The Associated Press Monday
Efforts to make English the state's official language have been introduced
annually since the late 1990s. A group called U.S. English has championed the
"I think it's wrong that's something like that was snuck into that bill in the
last minute," said House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, who helped kill an
earlier proposal to forbid any state or local agency from having to print
documents in any language but English.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin could not immediately be reached for comment.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
West Virginia, said English-only laws are based on the false premise that
immigrants will not learn English without government coercion.
"And English-only laws do nothing constructive to increase English proficiency.
They simply discriminate and punish those who have not yet learned English,"
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