Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Legislative Alert: House Bill 4053
June 19, 2017
Primary Sponsor: Tom Barrett (R- District 71)
Other Sponsors: Triston Cole (R- District 105), Aaron Miller (R- District 59), Gary Glenn (R-District 98); Lana Theis (R-District 42); Peter J.Lucido (R-District 36); Shane Hernandez (R-District 83); Lee Chatfield (R-District 107)
1/18/2017: Introduced in the Michigan House and referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
Bill Summary: This bill would designate English as the official language of the State of Michigan. English would be the language used for public records, public meetings, and official acts of State. In addition to printing official documents and forms in English, a state agency or local unit of government may use or print official documents in languages other than English for a variety of reasons.
Background and Analysis:
The act would not apply if there is a conflict with federal law, or if public health, safety, or justice requires the use of languages other than English. This is reassuring, since federal law, particularly Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing materials, requires meaningful access to federally funded public services and programs for people with limited English proficiency. The state also often chooses to offer language services and translated documents precisely to promote health, safety, and justice, among other important government interests.
The requirement would also not apply to the instruction of foreign languages, instruction designed to aid students with limited English proficiency as part of their transition and integration into Michigan's education system, or in the promotion of international commerce, tourism, sporting events, or cultural events.
Given that virtually all public records, public meetings, and official acts of the State of Michigan are currently conducted in English, it's not clear what goal or impact this bill would have beyond reinforcing a message of dominance. However, given that some state agencies are already under federal investigation or subject to compliance agreements for failing to fully meet the federal standards, enactment of a bill like this could complicate resolution and jeopardize funding and programs.
A similar bill was introduced by former Representative Peter Petallia and referred to the Committee on Government Operation in the last session.