A Republican senator from Vancouver made a run at making English the state's official language.
Sen. Don Benton's bill didn't make it out of committee but it made for some interesting debate.
Does Washington need an official language? What's your gut reaction when you hear we'd have an official language?
Of course Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks was in favor of the bill, but didn't think it went far enough.
The bill would have made English the official language for business in the state. But it would have allowed other languages to be used in critical circumstances, such as the protection of health, safety and liberty.
Other languages could have been used by government officials to: teach or study other languages; protect the rights of criminal defendants; promote trade, tourism or commerce; facilitate activities pertaining to the compilation of any census; comply with the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; use proper names, terms of art or phrases from other languages, and comply with the Constitution and laws of theU.S. or the constitution of the state of Washington.
And ballots would have still been printed in Spanish. Criminal defendants in court also would be provided translators if they were not fluent in English.
"It's time to stop catering to all these people," Parks said of the exceptions to English allowed in the proposal.
And though Senate Bill 6053 is most likely a moot point this session, that doesn't mean the issue won't be back somewhere down the road.
Thirty-one states have designated English as their official language, and it's a hot topic given the debate over immigration.
What is the correct path for Washington? We keep asking this fundamental question when issues of great concern arise: What kind of state do we want to be?
Having English as an official language makes sense for many reasons. And Benton's bill had a nice set of exceptions to help people in times of trouble and great importance get the information they need in a manner they can readily understand.
The language of the bill also addressed the expense of printing documents in multiple languages as our state grapples with a budget crisis, although that doesn't do much for the argument in our minds.
What we don't want to be is a state that is exclusive or ignorant to the needs of its citizens. Reverting to a native tongue is natural for people in times of stress, and that happens often when people are dealing with government, whether it be law enforcement or other forms of bureaucracy.
The bill called English the common thread of our country, the mechanism that lets folks from many origins find common ground.
The concept of English as the official language of our state is an interesting one, and maybe a necessary one for many reasons. But let's not let the debate become something that it's not, and that would be a debate over immigration.