March 9, 2005
Both the House and Senate voted Tuesday to declare English the official language of the state.
The version passed by the House would amend the state constitution to prohibit ballots and election materials from being printed in any other language. HCR2030, which would have to be ratified by voters next year, also would bar printing most other documents in different languages and even would let someone sue the government or its employees and officials for violations.
By contrast, state senators approved what might be considered simply a ceremonial declaration: While it says English is the official language, SB1364 neither would require nor prohibit governments from producing documents or providing services in any language.
The Senate version slipped through without dissent while the House proposal provoked often heated debate before gaining preliminary approval on a 23-20 vote.
An earlier constitutional amendment narrowly approved by voters in 1988 eventually was struck down by the Arizona Supreme Court as violating federal constitutional provisions.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the new language does not have the same flaws.
"We don’t stop communications," he said, pointing to a provision that says public employees and officials can continue to speak with constituents and residents in any language. There also are exceptions for public health and safety, protecting the rights of criminal defendants and crime victims international trade.
But Rep. Steve Gallardo, DPhoenix, said it is wrong to make this change.
"It will put a barrier in front of voters," he said.