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Lawmakers hope to make English official language of Pa.

Lawmakers hope to make English official language of Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Some lawmakers in Harrisburg want English to be the official language in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2132, known as "The Official Language Act," would only allow English to be used regarding "official acts of government."

A similar bill was introduced in 2011 but didn't gather enough support to move out of committee.

This time, Republican Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County hopes they can at least vote on it.

"It's good for individuals who are immigrating here to our state, to our nation, to be encouraged to learn English and assimilate into our culture as soon as possible so they have more earning potential in the marketplace," said Metcalfe.

Currently, 31 states have passed similar laws; Pennsylvania is one of the 19 that has not.

Metcalfe says not doing so is costing the state millions in taxpayer dollars in the printing of thousands of documents and pamphlets in different languages -- something he says isn't needed.

"It makes sense to have a consistent policy for the state to have efficiency within our government, to save tax dollars in the process of carrying out various missions of our various departments in the state government," he said.

However, for those who teach English to foreigners like Judit Gargar at the Literacy Center in Allentown say if passed, immigrants may view the law as unwelcoming.

"In the long term, it might encourage people to use English only, but like I said, initially to welcome people in this country and to give them a little comfort, it is necessary that you have documents in both languages," said Gargar.

Nonetheless, the bill does have some exceptions for using different languages, such as in the "promotion of international commerce and tourism" instances where the "public health, safety and justice" of an individual are concerned and
in instruction of foreign languages and ESL courses.

The bill is expected to be referred to committee for consideration.

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