Assembly Passes Bill to Aid English Language Learners, Hold State Accountable

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The California State Assembly passed legislation authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, that will help Californians with limited English proficiency (LEP) access critical services through strengthening how they report language barrier problems.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2253 passed with a 68-8 vote.  It now moves to the State Senate for further review.

“Limited proficiency with the English language must never be an impediment to accessing critical state services,” said Ting.  “State law has already outlined this goal but has been lackluster in holding agencies accountable.  That’s what we need to do to ensure that we truly have equal access in California.”

AB 2253 requires state agencies to make translated forms available to Californians with limited English language skills so that they can report language barriers experienced in accessing state services, both in person and online.

The existing Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act ensures that all California residents have equal access to public services.  It requires every agency to have a sufficient number of qualified bilingual staff and translated written materials so that the LEP population they serve is able to effectively access and communicate with government.  However, a 2010 state audit found that state agencies are not meeting their responsibilities.  In a state with over 1.3 million LEP residents, only 43 language access complaints were filed over a four year period. 

“It’s clear that language barriers are so pervasive that many Californians cannot even articulate that a problem exists,” added Ting.

In its last report to the State Legislature, the California Department of Human Resources found that 77% of agencies serve a substantial number of LEP Californians and that 80% have a bilingual staffing deficiency.

California is among the most linguistically diverse states in the nation.  According to the United States Census, 6.5 million California residents speak English less than very well.  That is one out of every five residents.

A range of organizations support AB 2253, including the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, the Asian Law Caucus, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Further information about this legislation is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Contact: Anthony Matthews (Ting), tel. (916) 319-2019, anthony.matthews@asm.ca.gov