West Virginia makes English its official language
W.Va. Makes English Its Official Language
Tue Apr 12, 9:55 AM ET
By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two days after the end of the
legislative session, state lawmakers are discovering
something few were aware of: They voted to make
English the official language of West Virginia.
The language amendment was quietly inserted into a
bill addressing the number of members that cities can
appoint to boards of parks and recreation. Among
mundane details about record-keeping, the amendment
adds the provision that "English shall be the official
language of the State of West Virginia."
Senate Majority Whip Billy Wayne Bailey successfully
offered that change to House Bill 2782 amid a flurry
of bills moving back and forth between the House and
Senate on Saturday, the last night of the 60-day
"I just told the members that the amendment clarifies
the way in which documents are produced," Bailey, a
Democrat, said Monday.
House Majority Leader Rick Staton recommended that his
chamber agree with the Senate's changes. But Staton,
also a Democrat, said he was unaware of the substance
of the amendment until asked about it by The
Associated Press Monday evening.
Efforts to make English the state's official language
have been introduced annually since the late 1990s. A
group called U.S. English has championed the cause.
"I think it's wrong that's something like that was
snuck into that bill in the last minute," said House
Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, who helped kill an
earlier proposal to forbid any state or local agency
from having to print documents in any language but
A spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin could not
immediately be reached for comment.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American
Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, said
English-only laws are based on the false premise that
immigrants will not learn English without government
"And English-only laws do nothing constructive to
increase English proficiency. They simply discriminate
and punish those who have not yet learned English,"