Missouri House Backs Measure Requiring English For Official Proceedings

AP, Feb. 23, 2007

Official state proceedings must be conducted in English under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Thursday by the House.

Missouri law already states that English is the “common language” and that “fluency in English is necessary for full integration into our common American culture.”

Sponsoring Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Franklin, said that provision does not go far enough and the state’s constitution must be changed to ensure that government decisions are not made in other languages.

The House gave the proposed constitutional amendment first-round approval by a 117-30 vote. If it passes the Legislature, the measure would go onto Missouri’s statewide ballot.

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But Democratic critics said they were concerned that the amendment could prevent court translators for people who do not speak English and bar other services such as printing documents in foreign languages—concerns Nieves said are unfounded.

The proposed amendment, supporters said, would make English the official—not the exclusive—language of the state.

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Saint Louis University law professor Frederic Bloom said he doubted the courts would permit the state to put a criminal defendant on trial who does not speak English, without providing a translator.

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The measure must be approved again in the House before moving to the Senate.

Proceedings in English is HJR7.

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