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York lawmakers among those pushing to make English Pa.'s official language


Two York County lawmakers are co-sponsors of a divisive Republican House bill that would make English the state's official language.

Proponents say the measure, House Bill 1506, proposed by Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Fayette and Westmoreland counties, would save the government money while encouraging immigrants to learn the state's adopted language. But Democrats in opposition say it would alienate people who don't speak fluent English.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, signed on to co-sponsor this and earlier versions of the bill. He said the measure aims to bring commonality in government communication, adding he's not against anyone continuing to speak their native tongue at home.

"I think whatever country you come from, I hope you teach your children the culture, including the language," Saylor said.

What it does: The bill calls for all official acts of state and local governments to be conducted in English and prevents tax dollars from being spent on policies that express a preference for a language other than English.

There would, however, be some exceptions. English would not have to be used in unofficial communication between people and members of government, when mandated by federal law, to preserve/use Native American languages, among other things, said Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, who also co-sponsored the bill.

"I am supporting the bill in part because I see it as a government-efficiency and waste-cutting measure that will cut costs to taxpayers," she said.

Thirty-one other states have already made English their official language. Other countries also have official languages, such as Canada, where English and French are preferred but countless indigenous and foreign languages are spoken.

Having a single official language in Pennsylvania would help people assimilate to American culture.

If someone were to move to France, he or she would have to learn French, Saylor said.

"If you move to another country, you have to adjust to things," he said.

Opposed: The county's lone Democratic representative in the House said he's adamantly opposed to the bill, calling it a "complete waste of time."

"I think its the antithesis to what out country was founded on," said Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City.

"I think it does very little to represent the government and its citizenry."

In the wake of a contentious hearing in the House State Government Committee, Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, announced he'll introduce two bills — one to make Spanish the state's official language and the other that encourages Congress to pass a bill making Spanish the nation's official language.

Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, Cruz said in a news release that the nation's Hispanic population is expected to reached 132.8 million in the next 30 years, making up 30 percent of the county's population.

More than 838,000 Latinos live in Pennsylvania today, the release adds.

Schreiber noted though Bill 1506 claims making English the state's official language will save Pennsylvanians money, it's not known how much money would be saved.

"It doesn't present an openness of the state," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at