The recent IAG report on the foreign language voter assistance videos brings up an opportune time to remind all Georgia voters of what they will not be allowed to consider on the ballot next month: Amending the state constitution to make English Georgia’s official language of government.

I was proud to have sponsored Senate Resolution 675 in the last General Assembly which would have given every voter the chance to answer the ballot question: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that English is the official language of the State of Georgia?”

Unsurprisingly, a December, 2015 statewide poll showed that a huge bipartisan majority (76% ) favor English as our constitutional official language.

SR 675 passed the Georgia Senate with the required two-thirds majority, but the above question will not be on your ballot in November. That’s because powerful anti-English forces in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives quietly killed the legislation at the sub-committee level. I believe a vote by the entire House would have resulted in passage, had that been allowed.

An extremely weak and all-but-ignored 1996 law says that English is Georgia’s official language. But with 10 foreign languages used for our driver’s license exam and foreign language videos for voter registration, it is obvious that more must be done to insure the commonsense unity and voting security that official English provides.

At present, Georgia state agencies and local governments are allowed to issue documents in multiple foreign languages “at the discretion of their governing authorities.” Our constitutional amendment would require all state documents, such as driver’s licenses, to be issued exclusively in English. Commonsense exceptions would be allowed for public safety threats and teaching English to non-fluent speakers.

To be clear the goal is not “English only” — but rather English as the official language of government. The ridiculous scare tactics used by the anti-English lobby that make claims to the contrary should be challenged with calm and educated replies.

I plan on introducing the same legislation again in the 2017-2018 General Assembly. We hope supporters of constitutional official English for Georgia will make that opinion clear to their state legislators.

The author, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, chairs the state Senate Judiciary Committee.


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