Bill to Protect Rights of Limited English Speakers Heads to Gov. Brown

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The California State Legislature passed legislation authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, to protect the rights of Californians with limited English proficiency by strengthening how they can report language barrier problems with state government.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2253 passed the State Senate today with a 36-0 vote, following a 68-8 State Assembly vote in May of this year.  The bill now goes to Governor Jerry Brown who must act on the measure by September 30.

“California has the most language diversity in the nation,” said Ting.  “A language barrier must never be an impediment to accessing critical state services.  By creating better ways for state agencies to be accountable for their treatment of English language learners, we can better protect the rights of all Californians.  Unfortunately, language barriers are so pervasive now that many Californians cannot even articulate when problems exist.”

Ting’s 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.

Under current state law, the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act, all California residents must have equal access to public services.  Every agency must have a sufficient number of qualified bilingual staff and translated written materials so that English language learners are 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 where over 1.3 million residents have limited English proficiency, only 43 language access complaints were filed over a four year period.

In its last report to the State Legislature, the California Department of Human Resources found that 77% of agencies serve a substantial number of limited English proficiency 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.