Pa. lawmakers weigh designating English official state language

    State House lawmakers are considering making English the official language of Pennsylvania.

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

    “The purpose of my bill is to encourage people coming to this country legally who don’t speak our language to assimilate and become successful,” she said.

    She said her proposal also would ensure all state government business conducted and documents printed are in English. Swanger said it costs the state about $3 million a year to print information in other languages.

    Swanger’s plan and a second proposal to make English the official language come with exceptions. Other languages still could be used for the sake of public safety and in promoting international commerce and tourism.

    Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, a Luzerne County Democrat, questioned the need for the legislation.

    “I always thought that English was the official language in America because I don’t see how you survive without knowing English,” he said. “I guess officially it hasn’t been said so.”

    And Swanger’s proposal spurred some verbal sparring with Erie Democrat Flo Fabrizio. Swanger said past generations of immigrants were more diligent about learning English.

    “That was their first priority when they came to the country. They wanted to learn our language,” she said.

    “Wonderful, and you’ve had the same kind of experience, and that’s precisely my argument,” countered Fabrizio. “That’s precisely my argument.”

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

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

    “Oh no, no,” Swanger said.

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