Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act

Summary: The Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act requires the jurisdiction to take reasonable steps to make translations available so that individuals with limited English proficiency can interact with government.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act shall be called the “Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act.”

SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE

(A) FINDINGS—The [legislature/council/commission] finds that:

1. Thousands of residents cannot access the public services provided by government agencies and programs because of their inability or limited ability to speak, understand or read the English language.

2. Non-English speakers must have access to these important programs.

(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to provide individuals with limited English proficiency equal access to government agencies and programs.

SECTION 3. ACCESS TO PUBLIC SERVICES FOR NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS

After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:

(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:

1. “Equal access” means to be informed of, participate in, and benefit from public services offered by a [department,] agency, or program, at a level equal to English proficient individuals.

2. “Limited English proficiency” means the inability to adequately understand or express oneself in the spoken or written English language.

3. “Oral language services” includes various methods to provide verbal information and interpretations such as staff interpreters, bilingual staff, telephone interpreter programs, and private interpreter programs.

4. “Vital documents” means applications or informational materials, notices and complaint forms offered by state departments, agencies and programs. “Vital documents” does not include applications and examinations related to the licensure, certification or registration of businesses and professionals.

(B) LANGUAGE ACCESS REQUIRED

1. Each [department] shall take reasonable steps to provide equal access to public services for individuals with limited English proficiency.

2. Reasonable steps to provide equal access to public services include:

a. In-house oral language services for individuals with limited English proficiency, if contact between any agency and individuals with limited English proficiency is on a weekly or more frequent basis.

b. The translation of vital documents ordinarily provided to the public into any language spoken by any limited English proficient population that constitutes at least 3 percent of the overall population within the geographic area served by an agency, as measured by the U.S. Census.

c. Any additional methods or means necessary to achieve equal access to public services.

3. Each [department] shall adopt regulations regarding the requirements of this section at least six months prior to the date of full implementation for that [department].

4. The [Department of Human Resources], in consultation with the office of the [Attorney General], shall provide central coordination and technical assistance to departments and agencies to help them comply with this section.

SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE

The provisions of this section shall be fully implemented according to the following schedule:

1. On or before January 1, 20XX, full implementation by the following departments: [Human Resources, Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Health and Mental Hygiene, and Juvenile Justice].

2. On or before January 1, 20XX, full implementation by the following departments: [Aging, Public Safety, Corrections, and Transportation].

3. On or before January 1, 20XX, full implementation by all other state departments and agencies.


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