HB 4619 (2017)

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Legislative Alert: House Bill 4619

May 18, 2017

House Bill 4619 (2017)

Primary Sponsor: Stephanie Chang (D-District 6)

Co-Sponsors: Tom Cochran (D-District 67), Jon Hoadley (D-District 60), Henry Yanez (D-District 25), Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-District 8), Kristy Pagan (D-District 21), Darrin Camilleri (D-District 23), Jim Ellison (D-District 26), Abdullah Hammoud (D-District 15), Tim Sneller (D-District 50)

Bill Status: Introduced May 17, 2017, referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

Bill Summary: This bill would facilitate equal access to state departmental and agency services for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). It would include providing sufficient in-person and other oral interpretation, and the translation of vital documents in areas where LEP populations exceed 3% of the total population or 1,000 or more people are served by a particular office.

The bill would require the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to create a complaint form and process for members of the public to pursue a remedy for noncompliance with the act.  It would also require state departments and agencies to develop and submit a language access report every two years to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.   The staff training plan would require specific information about how the department or agency will:

  • Obtain language services internally or from vendors.
  • Respond to callers with limited English proficiency.
  • Respond to written communications from persons with limited English proficiency.
  • Respond to persons with limited English proficiency who have in-person contact with staff.
  • Ensure competency of interpreters and translation services.
  • Indicate limited English proficiency status in data and information systems.
  • Communicate information to the agency's mandated language access coordinator about changes in language services needed by the population served and when that information will be communicated.

MIRC Analysis: This bill, modeled after various other state language access laws and tracking federal language access requirements and guidelines, would help to ensure that equal language access is provided by all state entities providing direct services to the public. It would supplement and complement without replacing or superseding federal language access laws. The bill would ensure that state agency staff have practical and specific information and guidance about the actions required to ensure language access in a variety of situations.

This bill would also provide much-needed accountability by giving the independent Michigan Department of Civil Rights a clearer mandate to address state agencies' failure to comply, a clearer standard to enforce, and an enhanced framework for assisting agencies with compliance. 

We support the bill because of the positive impact it would have on the lives of people with limited English proficiency, most of whom are members of Michigan's immigrant communities.  Michigan may not be able to consistently rely on federal enforcement and standards to ensure equity and should take affirmative action.  In addition, all Michiganders benefit when people with limited English proficiency are fully included in communication about issues relating to public health, safety, economic development, business and tax compliance, and other common interests the state works to protect. 

The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center was pleased to have provided technical assistance in the development of this bill, which was also introduced in the last session as HB 4891.