Stupid in any language: In plain English, legislators waste the public's time

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In a state without a plan for repairing its roads and bridges and that still hasn't made tough decisions for regulating the growing Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry, lawmakers wasted time on Wednesday advancing two pointless proposals that are nothing but misguided remedies for a nonexistent problem.

And legislators wonder why the public holds them in such low esteem.

House Bill 361 and HB 888 both would make English the official language of Pennsylvania. Apparently, the dozens of supporters of these measures think English is in danger of extinction, since they say their purpose is "to preserve, protect and strengthen" the role of English in the state.

The use of English in Pennsylvania is about as close to extinction as is the white-tailed deer.

So why do these lawmakers think the designation is important? They claim doing so can save the state lots of money. Here's a great example: By some reckonings, HB 888 could mean the end of state funding for so-called English as a second language classes. These are programs in schools that help improve English language skills among immigrants and children from families where English is not spoken in the home -- in other words, the very programs that would help those who speak other languages become more proficient in English.

During the House State Government Committee hearing, pamphlets for self-guided tours of the state Capitol came in for derision because some are printed in Spanish. So the state could save a few bucks on printing costs? We wonder if these same lawmakers would be eager to grab the tourist information that is printed in English if they were visiting some of the world's most famous destinations, such as the Vatican or the Louvre. Why wouldn't Pennsylvania want to be as welcoming to its visitors or Spanish-speaking residents?

Another ridiculous moment in the hearing occurred when Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Cranberry Republican whose support is the clearest sign of a bad idea ahead, called for a moment of silence in recognition of the "great patriot" Joey Vento, the late Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich king notorious for a brash approach to customer service with a sign that demanded: "This is America. When ordering, 'Speak English.' "

Sadly, Mr. Metcalfe is not the only local lawmaker to wrap himself in the American flag in calling for laws that are blind to American history and values. Western Pennsylvania co-sponsors include Republicans Brian Ellis, Mark Mustio, Jeffrey Pyle, Richard Stevenson and Randy Vulakovich and Democrats Dom Costa, Bill Kortz and Harry Readshaw.

Their wrong-headed approach will say "Keep out" not only to immigrants and ethnic minorities. Multinational corporations that might be seeking a base in America will get the message, too.

The House intends to take up these measures when members return later this month. That gives residents time to tell lawmakers this idea is absurdo, absurde, assurdo and just plain absurd, in any language.



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