With a $3 billion state budget deficit and high unemployment, you would think that lawmakers would have better things to do than invent meaningless new amendments to the state Constitution. Freshman Representative Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston) has introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of North Carolina.
Never mind that English already is the state’s official language. As Laura Leslie of WRAL puts it, “It’s not clear what House Bill 475 would do, aside from drawing the Republican base to the polls, since it specifically says it would not supersede anyone’s rights under the U.S. or NC Constitution.”
- When asked why it is necessary to make this a Constitutional amendment, Rep. Hastings said that he “just felt like it should be enshrined in the Constitution with an amendment.”
- When asked how many other states have similar provisions, he said: “I have no idea.” This is not a trick question; it’s standard practice for legislators to understand how other states deal with similar issues. But Rep. Hastings “felt like this was a good idea” so he is moving forward “without investigating what others have done.” By the way, it took me a couple minutes on Wikipedia to answer this question – there are 7 states with constitutional provisions and another 21, including NC, with laws on the books making English the official language.
- Rep. Hastings said that the English language is not “under threat.” Then why does the bill say that it is “intended to preserve, protect, and strengthen the English language”? What is the real purpose of this legislation? Why do we need a new constitutional amendment? It’s worth mentioning again that English already is the official language of North Carolina.
Most North Carolinians respect our Constitution enough not to change it every time a lawmaker thinks they have a good idea, without a clue about the consequences or evidence of any real need.
What do you think? Please comment below.
-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate