Senator wants English to be Washington's official language

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 30, 2012 

English would be named the state's official language if Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, has his way.

But Benton's bill doesn't seem to do anything more than designate English as the official language. The bill claims it would save the state some money on translation services but doesn't explain how.

Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks said the bill does send a message he can support but feels watered down since there are a lot of exemptions.

Although Senate Bill 6053 states that English should be used for all official business of the state, it still allows other languages to be used to protect health, safety and liberty, and would not change the need to print ballots in Spanish or provide translators to criminal defendants in court who are not fluent in English.

Parks said he is been frustrated with bilingual requirements for jobs and agencies such as school districts being forced to use a language other than English.

When non-English speaking immigrants came to the United States, no one printed things in French, German or another language for them, Parks said.

"It's time to stop catering to all these people," he said.

Pasco immigration attorney Tom Roach said he thinks it is great for people to speak more than one language. He and his children are bilingual, and he said he wishes they were trilingual.

But a country and a state should only have one official language because more than one can be destructive, Roach said.

"I'm a big believer in the unifying ability of one language in a country," he said.

The bill asserts that English language has been the common thread binding people in the United States together and command of English is necessary or citizens to have full advantage of opportunities.

So far, the bill has been assigned to the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections committee but a public hearing has not been scheduled.

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