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Arizona re-ignites ‘English only’ debate

PHOENIX, Feb. 6 (UPI) — A debate over “English only” documents is re-emerging in Arizona with a complaint from a legislator about the cost of printing in several languages.

The House Government Committee passed House Bill 2283 Tuesday, The measure, which would forbid state agencies from mailing certain documents printed in any language but English, will go to the House for a full vote.

Although critics warn it might violate the federal Civil Rights Act, sponsor Steve Smith, a Republican, said the proposed bill saves money and reinforces Proposition 103, passed by voters in 2006 to make English Arizona’s official language and requires all “official government actions” be conducted in English.

Even after the proposition’s passage, numerous state documents continue to be published in English, Spanish and other languages, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic reported Wednesday.

HB2283 states any state agency document required to be produced in languages other than English must be posted online, with copies made available in state offices and not mailed out, noting an exception for “voting material” but not for social services applications, driver’s license manuals and certain school documents.

“We don’t need to print, bind and ship everything an agency does at taxpayers’ expense. We’re spending millions of dollars a year on documents that would be fine printed in English only,” Smith said.

Critics of the bill say it could follow the state’s broader “English only” amendment to the Arizona Constitution, passed in 1998 and overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court after a decade of litigation, the newspaper said.

Democratic Rep. Martin Quezada called the bill bad public policy.

“This is not about cost savings,” he said. “It’s about creating a barrier between government and the people we’re supposed to be serving.”

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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