OKs official-language measure
Associated Press
Mar. 23, 2006

The Arizona House on Thursday approved a proposed ballot measure that would make English the state's official language and require that government functions be conducted in English.

A similar proposal made it through the Republican-led Legislature last year, but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. She said she believed non-English speakers should be encouraged to learn the language, but that the bill she was vetoing didn't do anything toward that end.

The House's 34-22 vote sent the resolution to the Senate. If approved by the full Legislature, this year's proposal (HCR2036) would bypass the governor and be decided by voters in December.

Supporters said the measure was needed to encourage assimilation of immigrants.

"The American way of life includes learning the language," said Rep. Marian McClure, R-Tucson. "I welcome everyone."

Opponents say the proposal was divisive and fanned flames of intolerance.

The resolution is "only driven by paranoia," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. "This gives a perfect example why Latinos need to be voting Democrat."

Another critic went so far as to say the proposed referendum had the "faint odor of a bygone era" - Nazi Germany - when Adolph Hitler ran on a platform that included restricting immigration.

"No one of this chamber could ever be accused of taking such a leap" but others with evil hearts could exploit the ballot measure, said Rep. David Bradley, D-Phoenix.

"That was uncalled for," House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, said after Bradley finished his remarks. However, Weiers later said through a spokesman that his rebuke was aimed at another legislator who applauded Bradley.

A similar voter-approved law making English the state's official language was overturned in 1998. The law, approved in 1988, was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the change violated free-speech rights.