Racist Arizona Bill Invalidates Insurance Contracts Signed by Non-English Speakers  

Arizona state Rep. David Livingston, right, R-Peoria,
talks with Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, during floor debate
at the capitol Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP
Photo/Ross D. Franklin). Image via

After a certain point, you almost have to admire how committed
Republicans are to defending and enforcing their racism.
Arizona state Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, has sponsored a
bill that
he says
will encourage insurance companies to translate
policies “into multiple languages for the benefit of
consumers.” However, in reality,
HB 2083
would invalidate any non-English version of an
insurance contract, even if the two versions conflict, AZ

This means that, if this bill becomes law, a non-English
speaker signing a life insurance policy in Spanish would be
legally obligated to honor only the English version of that
contract—even if a mistranslation changed her contract’s
meaning. The bill effectively protects insurance companies at
the expense of non-native speakers, whose non-English contracts
would be meaningless if this bill passes into law.

This, right here, is how racism is institutionalized and
becomes systematic. Current state law stipulates that
non-English versions of insurance contracts must be identical
to their English counterparts, including “a sworn statement
signed by the translator attesting that the translation is
identical in substance to the English document.” So why would
this law expand opportunities for insurance companies (or, as
Republicans spin it, help consumers)?

Because it offers insurance companies protection against
litigation from anyone who sues over mistranslations (therefore
also, Democrats fear, deincentivizing accuracy in
translations). Democrats have objected to the bill, with Tempe
Rep. Athena Salman raising the concern “that we’re creating
structural barriers that are going to impact people,” and Rep.
Isela Blanc worrying that, if signed into law, HB 2083 would
“effectively overrule Department of Insurance regulations that
require all non-English documents used to sell insurance be
accurately translated,”
to Pinal Central. Living United for Change in
Arizona executive director Tomas Robles told the House Banking
and Insurance Committee panel it was “a very prejudiced and
racist bill.”

Nationwide Insurance, which supports the bill and currently
only offers insurance policies in English, says HB 2083 will
help the insurance company expand its reach. “We are not
looking to do anything other than provide an extra customer
service to clients and customers who potentially don’t speak
English or may not be comfortable with English,” Nationwide
Insurance lobbyist Daniel Romm
the panel.

This is, unsurprisingly, the same outlook Republican proponents
have. “It’s going to provide more options for consumers,’’

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, and with more insurance
offerings for non-native speakers, it “may lower their costs
and rates.’’

But some of Cook’s peers are more transparent about their ugly
reasons for backing of the bill. “We spend hundreds of millions
of dollars every year in the public school system for English
language learning,’’ Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley
ahead of the vote. “Everybody’s given an equal
opportunity to learn the language so that when it comes time
for them to be an adult and look through a contract and
understand what they’re signing up for, they have a clear
understanding of what that is, what the words mean.’’

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, went with the
“I’m not racist, I just think white people are better!”
defense:“I don’t see this as being racist,” he said. “We live
in America, and in America, we speak English.”

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