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Oklahoma Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Official English Bill

Voters could get ultimate decision in November 2010

April 23, 2009

The Oklahoma Senate voted 44-2 last night to approve H.J.R. 1042, legislation that would make English the official language of Oklahoma. If passed by the House of Representatives, which has already approved similar legislation this session, the measure would be placed on the statewide ballot in November 2010. Voters would then have the opportunity to make Oklahoma the 31st state with English as its official language

“The Oklahoma Senate has taken a major step toward using government policy to unify our diverse people, rather than to divide them,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of the Board of U.S. English. “The passage of H.J.R. 1042 represents the reasonable expectation that state agencies will promote English acquisition rather than foster an environment where English learning becomes optional.” 

Under the Senate passed version, all official actions of the Oklahoma government are to be conducted in English, except as required by federal law. The measure makes special note of the state’s rich Native American history, clarifying that nothing in the proposal “shall be construed to diminish or impair the use, study, development, or encouragement of any Native American language.” 

House passage of H.J.R. 1042 would mark the tenth time that an official English referendum has been placed on a statewide ballot. Voters have approved all nine prior measures, including in Missouri in 2008 with 86 percent of the vote, and in Arizona in 2006 with 74 percent of the vote. Other states to make English the official language by popular referendum include Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida and Utah. 

“The official English bill approved by the Senate represents sound public policy that will be beneficial to all Oklahomans,” continued Mujica. “This success would not have been possible without the efforts of Rep. Randy Terrill, Sen. Anthony Sykes and House Speaker Chris Benge, who worked tirelessly to ensure that we minimize the crutch of government multilingualism. I hope the House of Representatives will act swiftly to approve this measure and send it to the people.” 

Recent polls have shown that more than 80 percent of Oklahomans support making English the official language of state government.


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