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Legislation Introduced to Make English the Official Language of Texas

November 13, 2008

Just days after 85 percent of Missouri voters approved an official English ballot initiative in that state, a Texas legislator has pre-filed legislation that would make English the official language of Texas. The measure, H.B. 81, filed by Rep. Dan Flynn, marks the first of what is likely to be a flurry of efforts promoting the official language in the United States in 2009. 

Aiming to end the endless crutch of government multilingualism, H.B. 81 would require that government printed documents in Texas be prepared in the English language, with the exception of those required by federal law. The measure follows the 2007 introduction of the first official English bills to be submitted in Texas in more than a decade. 

“Following the success of the ballot measure in Missouri, I believe many legislators will follow Rep. Flynn’s lead and work to make English the official language of their state,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of U.S. English. “In Missouri, the presidential candidates virtually split the vote 50-50, but the official English measure received the support of six-in-seven voters. Looking at these results, there can be no doubt that official English is a unifying issue in our diverse nation, not the divisive issue activists make it out to be.” 

A 2008 poll conducted by Zogby International found that 78 percent of Texans favor making English the official language of the state. Strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents favored the proposed measure, with significant support all across the Lone Star State. The poll of 803 likely voters was conducted 21-23 July 2008 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. 

According to 2007 figures from the U.S. Census, more than 3.2 million Texans are limited English proficient, including 818,000 who were born in the United States. An examination of Census data finds that only one-quarter of immigrant Texans who speak Spanish at home speak English “very well,” while more than one-half of immigrant Texans who speak a language other than English or Spanish at home are English proficient. 

“These Census numbers illustrate the problems caused by attempting to provide multilingual government services to non-English speakers in perpetuity,” added Mujica. “When non-English speakers are offered endless services in their native language, they come to rely on the government as a translator and become less likely to learn English. Meanwhile, when such translation services are not available, they are more inclined to be on the road to English learning. H.B. 81 is beneficial legislation for both newcomers and natives of Texas.”

To date, 30 states have made English the official language of the state. In the 2007-08 legislative session, bills were introduced in 20 states that would make English the official language or strengthen existing official English laws.

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