Republicans in control of the Minnesota House and Senate are pushing legislation that would designate English as the state’s official language and repeal an existing law that requires state agencies to employ bilingual employees. The move would require most government business, including meetings, documents and other services, to be conducted in English only — this despite the Twin Cities’ celebrated ethnic and language diversity. A bill introduced yesterday in the state Senate would bar Minnesota from issuing a driver’s license to anyone who cannot understand English and would require applicants to pass the test without an interpreter. More than 20 states have adopted similar legislation. Most recently, voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot measure making English their official language.
“We need to send a message to immigrants, no matter where they come from, that learning English is essential,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen. “And that they have the responsibility to learn our nation’s language.” A similar bill has been introduced in the House.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen called the legislation a “distraction” from fixing the state’s fiscal problems. “It sends the wrong signal about Minnesota and where we’re positioned in the global economy,” Thissen said. Gov. Mark Dayton, who opposed the measure on the campaign trail, would almost certainly veto the legislation.