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Oklahoma House Approves Official English Legislation

March 12, 2009

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill last night that would give Oklahoma voters the chance to make English the official language of the state. By the substantial margin of 66-32, the House passed H.J.R. 1042, marking the second consecutive year that the House has passed this measure. If passed by the Senate, the measure would be placed on the November general election ballot.

Introduced by Rep. Randy Terrill, the law would require Oklahoma to conduct most of its official government business in English. The law also contains exceptions, allowing state agencies to use other languages to protect public health and safety and to promote the state’s economy internationally. The bill also explicitly recognizes Oklahoma’s Native American tribes’ autonomy to conduct business in their languages.

“Oklahoma’s Native American, Hispanic and European immigrant history is unique, but the role of the English language in forging a common bond is not,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of the Board of U.S. English, Inc. “The unifying bond of the English language has been the key in putting our diversity to the best use – creating a strong society. I am glad to see that more than two-thirds of Oklahoma Representatives recognize this and voted for the bill.”

If passed, Oklahoma would become the 31st state to make English its official language. In the last three years, similarly comprehensive statutes were passed in Kansas and Arizona, and state courts in Alaska and Iowa have decisively ruled that such laws are constitutional. Recent polls find strong support for official English among Oklahomans – a survey last year conducted by the Tulsa World found that 88 percent of Oklahomans favor the official English measure.  

“There are few existing legislative proposals that receive the support of more than seven-in-eight people,” added Mujica. “Members of the State Senate owe it to their constituents to give them an honest vote on a substantive official English measure the people clearly favor.”

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