News - February 15, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

A bill that would make English the official language of Nevada -- plus the official language of the state's municipal and county governments -- drew a sharp rebuke Wednesday from Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno.

Benitez-Thompson, the majority floor leader who mocked the bill by speaking Spanish when she referred it to committee on the Assembly floor, said the bill "seems to be a solution looking for a problem that we don't have in this state."

Benitez-Thompson said on Nevada Newsmakers that she knew of no local government in Nevada or state agency that is demanding this law that all public documents, with some exceptions, be written in English only.
.
"If there is no problem, then why change the status quo?" Benitez-Thompson said. "So without having any rumblings from local government or state government that there is an issue with language, why would we take an action that really accomplishes nothing?"

The bill was introduced this week at the Legislature by Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and is cosponsored by Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. McArthur sponsored a similar bill in 2011. Gustavson sponsored similar legislation in 1997 and 2013.

An "English-only" mandate would also harm those at the lower ends of the economic ladder, Benitez-Thompson said.

"If the goal is to educate people, for example, who are living in very low income housing about their rights and different programs that are available to them, why wouldn't you do that in a language that is the easiest for them to understand?" Benitez-Thompson said.

"If the goal is really education or the goal is really awareness, then you would sincerely care about the way you are communicating that information," she said.

Benitez-Thompson said the bill "looks like it is more political than practical or functional."

Benitez-Thompson also questioned why Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said he would propose a bill next week that would prevent any Nevada city or county from becoming a sanctuary city for undocumented workers or immigrants.

Sanctuary cities and counties are defined as governments that do not prosecute unauthorized immigrants for violating federal immigration laws and allow access to city services.

Roberson's plans were revealed in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story by Colton Lochhead.

Roberson said his proposal would allow the state to block funding to cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, according to the LVRJ.

"I think it will be interesting to hear his argument on that," she said about Roberson. "I think it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about why we would not let individual cities make a choice about that.

"The cities and counties have a lot of autonomy in this state and we give them the ability to write their own charters and give them a lot of room to run their own businesses," Benitez-Thompson said. "So I think it would be interesting to hear his argument on why he feels compelled to have state mandates pushing down on local governments."

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani wrote on social media recently that she planned to introduce a resolution that would make Clark County a sanctuary county. Roberson's proposal followed Giunchigliani Facebook post.

"I'd love to be able to watch the conversation between those two," Benitez-Thompson said.