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Oklahoma House of Representatives Approves Official English Bill

70-28 vote sends measure to Senate; issue could be decided by voters in November

April 24, 2008

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed S.B. 163 yesterday, putting the Sooner State one step closer to becoming the 31st state to unify under the common language of English. By a vote of 70-28, the House voted to send the measure to the Senate. If passed there, it would be presented to the voters on the November general election ballot. 

S.B. 163 would make English the official language of Oklahoma, requiring the majority of state business to be conducted in English and minimizing the use of government multilingualism that may discourage assimilation. The legislation is carefully drawn to comply with federal law and legal precedent, and leaves agencies the flexibility to address public health concerns, the needs of the justice system, and the rights of Native American tribes. 

“I want to thank Rep. Randy Terrill, Rep. George Faught and the majority of the Oklahoma Representatives for answering the call of their constituents and leading the effort to make English the official language of the state,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of U.S. English, Inc. “In a state where residents speak more than 100 languages, government agencies should promote the common language of English, not separate groups along linguistic lines.” 

A January 2008 poll by the Tulsa World and KOTV-Channel 6 found that 88 percent of Oklahomans support making English the official language of the state, including 93 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats. The poll of 757 registered voters had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points. 

“As a native Spanish speaker, I understand the importance of maintaining ancestral languages,” added Mujica. “Nothing in this law should be interpreted as prohibiting or infringing upon the right of non-English speakers and native American tribes to teach and preserve languages other than English. The ability to speak a language in addition to English is as important to our future as it was to our past.” 

The Oklahoma House of Representatives becomes the second state legislative body to pass an official English bill this year. To date, 30 states have made English their official language.

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