State English rule is vetoed
The Arizona Republic
May. 10, 2005
Elvia Díaz

Napolitano kills bid for official language

The movement to make English Arizona's official language came to a screeching halt Monday.

Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed Senate Bill 1167, which would have required state and local government workers to carry out their official duties in English.

Also Monday, lawmakers said they almost certainly will not pursue a resolution to put an official-English referendum on the November 2006 ballot at least this year. The resolution has been stalled in the Senate for more than a month.

Two other key immigration measures did appear headed for passage by the Legislature but both face likely vetoes from Napolitano. If that happens, it would mean that most of the high-profile immigration proposals during this year's legislative session would have gone nowhere.

The Senate on Monday approved House Bill 2592, which would ban cities, towns and counties from enacting tougher sanctions on employers that hire undocumented workers and prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits such as child-care assistance and adult-education classes.

The measures go to a conference committee to smooth out differences between House and Senate versions before moving on to Napolitano.

In her veto message for the official-English bill, Napolitano said she agrees with its sponsors that non-English-speaking Arizonans should be encouraged to learn English. But the bill would not accomplish that, she said.

"The Legislature, to date, has failed to appropriate adequate funding to allow schools to teach English-language learners," she wrote. "Consequently, under Senate Bill 1167, English is required as the official language, but funds are not available to help non-English speakers to learn to read, write or speak English. Under these circumstances, making English the only language for official action is contradictory at best."

A final decision is expected as early today on whether to pull the plug on the official-English ballot measure.

"I don't want to overfatigue the ballot," said Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, who sponsored the measure, referring to a number of other measures headed for the 2006 ballot.

Pearce, who also sponsored SB 1167, took issue with Napolitano's veto.

"She makes noise on illegal immigration but fights every single effort to do something about it," he said.

The measure would have banned the translation of government documents into languages other than English except those needed for international trade and tourism and to protect the public's health and safety. It also would have required that public meetings be conducted in English. It would not have applied to private businesses.

Had the bill become law, roughly 700 Spanish-speaking Phoenix residents no longer would have received water bills in their language.

In 1988, Arizona voters approved an English-only law. But the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional because it violated free-speech and equal-protection rights. Supporters had argued the new proposal would have met that test because it would have allowed private citizens to speak or learn any language they wanted.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.