More detailed information in Spanish has been recently made available on the website of the Texas House of Representatives, a response by the House leadership to legislation championed in 2013 and 2015 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.
A Spanish translation function, which is free and available to the public, has been included on the website for the Texas House of Representatives, a move that the House District 40 lawmaker said will increase the number of Hispanics who can learn more about the state legislative process.
“It is both practical and beneficial to offer legislative information in both English and Spanish. As we seek to modernize our government and keep pace with the 21st century, I believe we must allow legislative information to be accessible in English and Spanish,” said Canales, who is fluent in both languages. “The success of government depends on effectively communicating with the public and offering nondiscriminatory, accurate information.”
Canales gave credit to Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Ft. Worth, who is Chairman of the House Committee on Administration, which has wide-reaching jurisdiction over the administrative operations of the House of Representatives, including the official House of Representatives website (http://www.house.state.tx.us).
“With a growing number of state agencies providing detailed information in Spanish on their respective websites, I appreciate Chairman Geren and the rest of the House leadership for working with me to create a bilingual presence on the Internet for the Texas House of Representatives,” said Canales.
In 2015, Canales filed House Bill 288, which proposed that key components of the home page for the House of Representatives, as well as for the individual websites for each of the 150 state representatives, also have the capability to be read in Spanish.
HB 288 was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation on March 18, 2015, with the recommendation that it be approved by the House of Representatives, then sent to the Senate for their action.
HB 288, along with hundreds of other major bills, was not able to clear the legislative process before the regular session ended on June 1, 2015.
“But the leadership of the House was committed to getting my plan into action, which they have now done, and I am very grateful for their support, and especially for their dedication to make it possible for thousands of Texans who primarily read in Spanish to better access the Texas Legislature in order to participate in helping shape the policies and laws of their state,” said Canales.
The Spanish-language component now in place does not include all documents in the House and House member’s websites because that would involve millions of words, since each state representative files up to 100 or more pieces of legislation each session.
However, what is in place represents a significant move forward in democracy, he said.
“We now have the most crucial information available in Spanish, such as how a bill becomes law, a glossary of every action that can be taken during the legislative process, biographies of each state representative, addresses and phone numbers, and so on,” Canales said.
With this action, the House of Representatives is helping break down language barriers, the lawmaker said.
“English is the most used language in Texas, but we do not want to disenfranchise those who are more fluent in Spanish,” Canales said. “According to a 2011 Census survey, almost 30 percent of Texans speak Spanish. Of that figure, more than 42 percent of those Texans speak English less than very well.”
The Center for Immigration Studies found that the Census Bureau recently released information from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), including languages spoken for those five years of age and older.
“The new data show that the number of people who speak a language other than English at home reached an all-time high of 61.8 million, up 2.2 million since 2010,” Karen Ziegler and Steven A. Camarota reported in their October 2014 article, One in Five U.S. Residents Speaks Foreign Language at Home, Record 61.8 million. “The largest increases from 2010 to 2013 were for speakers of Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. One in five U.S. residents now speaks a foreign language at home.” (http://cis.org/record-one-in-five-us-residents-speaks-language-other-than-english-at-home)
In 2007, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency under the management of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released updated information, based on the 2000 Census, that detailed the languages spoken in U.S. and Texas.
According to the CDC, English and Spanish, or predominantly Spanish, are spoken considerably by Texas residents at their homes, including in the major metropolitan regions not located along the Texas-Mexico border:
• Harris County (Houston): 898,885;
• Dallas County (Dallas): 539,570;
• Bexar County (San Antonio): 517,885;
• Tarrant County (Ft. Worth): 218,615;
• Travis County (Austin): 168,285; and
• Nueces County (Corpus Christi): 118,745.
These figures do not include residents in those counties who spoke English only.
Counties bordering Mexico, as expected, reported large percentages of their residents who spoke English and Spanish, or predominantly Spanish.
Providing more Spanish-language content on the House of Representatives websites also will help generate more commerce with non-English nations which do business with Texas.
“Texas bordering Mexico also makes it crucial that our largest trading partner have access to our Legislature and the information we have,” Canales added.
According to http://www.TexasWideOpenForBusiness.com, which is a maintained by the Texas Economic Development Corporation – an arm of the Office of the Governor – Mexico in 2014 was ranked number one with $102.6 billion in Texas exports, followed by Canada ($31.1 billion), Brazil ($11.7 billion), China ($10.9 billion), and the Netherlands ($8.9 billion) as the top five international trade partners.
Exports are goods or services sent from Texas to another country for sale.
Mexico also held the top spot as country of origin for Texas imports, accounting for more than $90.1 billion, or 29 percent, of Texas imports in 2014. China ranked number two for Texas imports ($45.4 billion), followed by Saudia Arabia ($19 billion), and Canada ($17.4 billion), addedTexasWideOpenforBusiness.com.
Imports are goods or services sent from another country to Texas for sale.
Among the state agencies – and there are more than 200 state boards, agencies and commissions in Texas – which currently provide content in Spanish on their respective web sites are:
• Texas Department of Criminal Justice http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/espanol/index.html
• Texas Secretary of State http://www.sos.state.tx.us/sos_espanol.shtml
• Texas Senate http://www.senate.state.tx.us/Senado.htm
• Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts http://www.window.state.tx.us/comptrol/espanol.html
• AboutTexasCov http://www.texas.gov/es/Pages/default.aspx