Introduced Version Senate Bill 12 History

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Senate Bill No. 12

(By Senator Edgell)


[Introduced February 9, 2005; referred to the Committee

on the Judiciary.]


A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §2-2A-l, §2-2A-2 and §2-2A-3, all relating to the establishment of the English language as the official language of the State of West Virginia.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §2-2A-l, §2-2A-2 and §2-2A-3, all to read as follows:
§2-2A-1. Short title.
This article shall be known and may be cited as "The West Virginia English Language Empowerment Act."
§2-2A-2. Legislative findings.
The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(1) The State of West Virginia is comprised of individuals from many ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and continues to benefit from this rich diversity;
(2) Throughout the history of West Virginia and the United States, the common thread binding individuals of differing backgrounds has been the English language. Command of the English language is necessary to participate in and take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by American life. Absent a rudimentary command of the English language, citizens of this State are unable to make their voices heard in the legislative process, effectively exercise their right to vote, or fully understand the rights afforded them by the United States and West Virginia Constitutions. Such citizens also have a more difficult time finding gainful employment, affordable housing and health insurance, and otherwise availing themselves of the full benefits of American life for themselves and their families; and
(3) Among the powers reserved to the states is the power to establish English as the official language of the respective states, and otherwise to promote the English language within the respective states, subject to the prohibitions enumerated in the Constitution of the United States and in the laws of the respective states.
§2-2A-3. English official state language.
(a) The English language is the official language of the State of West Virginia.
(b) All official business of this State will be conducted in English absent compelling circumstances. All official documents, regulations, orders and publications shall be printed in English and all official programs, meetings, transactions and actions conducted by or on behalf of this State and all its political subdivisions shall be in English.
(c) Other languages may be used by government officials, and in official documents, whenever necessary to:
(1)Protect the health, safety or liberty of any citizen;
(2)Teach or study other languages;
(3)Protect the rights of criminal defendants or the victims of crime;
(4)Promote trade, tourism or commerce;
(5)Facilitate activities pertaining to the compilation of any census;
(6)Comply with 20 U.S.C. §1400 et seq., Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
(7)Use proper names, terms of art or phrases from languages other than English; or
(8) Comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, or the Constitution of the State of West Virginia.
Except in exigent circumstances, when an official government document is translated into any language other than English under this section, an English translation will also be provided in the same document, appearing in such a manner as to afford the reader the opportunity to observe the English translation of all phrases used.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to:
(1) Diminish the use of, prevent the study or development of, or discourage the use of, any native American language in any context or for any purpose;
(2)Prohibit any elected official from speaking to any person in a language other than English while campaigning or providing constituent services, although such officials are encouraged to use English as much as possible to promote fluency in English; or
(3) Disparage any language or discourage any person from learning or using any language.
(e) As used in this section, "official" means any government action or document that binds the government, is required by law, or is authorized by law.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to establish English as the official language of West Virginia, provide that state business be conducted in English, that official documents be printed in English, that meetings be conducted in English, and to provide exceptions and limitations.

This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.
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