A Montgomery County Democrat says the Hogan administration has failed to comply with a 2016 law requiring state websites to offer translations in Spanish and Chinese.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan, the bill sponsor, said less than 40 percent of the state websites are in full compliance more than a year after the law was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
"It's appalling," Kagan said. "It's hard to determine whether this is a philosophical reluctance or ideological statement of some sort or whether it is disorganization."
But Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the administration has met the requirements under the law. She said the statute applies only to a list of state agencies included in an earlier version of the legislation, which did not deal specifically with translation issues. Of those two dozen state agencies, Chasse said, those that are overseen by Hogan's administration are in full compliance.
While not required under the law, Chasse noted that Kagan's own website does not provide translations in Spanish and Chinese.
Kagan countered that language inserted into the 2016 version of the bill makes clear that the translation requirement applies to all state agencies, not just the two dozen in the predecessor law.
Hogan's lawyers, however, say otherwise.
"If the senator's intent was not accurately communicated in the legislation she sponsored, our administration would be happy to work with her to clear up any confusion," Chasse said, adding that Kagan has not shared her concerns with the governor's office. "Our administration shares the senator's commitment to providing transparent and accessible websites so that all Marylanders can more easily interact with state government."
The legislation requires agencies to offer a translation option on their Web pages into any language spoken by at least 0.5 percent of the state population. Currently, Spanish and Chinese speakers meet that threshold.
There is an exception if an agency determines that an inaccurate translation could lead to a denial of benefits or services or if certain files on a website cannot be translated.
Kagan and her staff reviewed 112 state-agency websites in August. At that time, just 12 percent of the Web pages offered translations into Spanish and Chinese, and 29 percent offered Spanish translation. Since then, the numbers have increased.
An October survey by Kagan's office found that just under 40 percent of the state-agency sites offered translation into Chinese and Spanish, and about 10 percent offered only Spanish. About half did not offer translation.
"There is still a problem," Kagan said. "I'm pleased that they have been trying to hustle, but it's not being done fully."
Kagan said officials from the Department of Information Technology canceled a planned meeting with her a few weeks ago, without explanation. Chasse said officials at the department tried to reschedule but never heard back from Kagan's office.
Kagan said she proposed the legislation because of Maryland's diverse population and the need to be accessible in an "interconnected world." Before the law, Kagan said, 83 percent of state agency websites were only in English.
"This isn't just about our residents," she said. "It's about business, it's about tourism."