State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

House lawmakers vetting English-only bills

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 26, 2011 10:26 PM

Differing opinions on how well immigrants are assimilating rose to the surface as state House lawmakers debated making English the official language of Pennsylvania.


Republican Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, of Lebanon County, said her bill would encourage recent immigrants to learn English. 


That caused some verbal sparring between Erie Democrat Flo Fabrizio and Swanger.  She said past generations of immigrants were more diligent about learning English.


“But it doesn’t happen so much today.  I don’t see it happen in Lebanon,” said Swanger.


“I really believe you’re making some assumptions there,” said Fabrizio.


“Oh no, no,” said Swanger.  


Swanger’s plan, along with a second proposal sponsored by Cumberland County Rep. Scott Perry, would ensure all state government business conducted and documents printed are in English.  Both proposals include exceptions – like allowances that languages other than English could still be used for the sake of public safety and in promoting international commerce and tourism. 


Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, said he’s working with his counterpart in the Senate State Government Committee to introduce a parallel bill to make English the state’s official language.  Metcalfe, a Butler County Republican, considers the issue in concert with other proposals, like one to require state-issued photo I.D. at the polls, and a crackdown on undocumented workers. 


Swanger said it costs the state about three million dollars a year to print information in other languages.  Metcalfe said making English the official language would ensure that tax dollars would no longer be spent on “documentation and translation services that aren’t necessary.”

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