- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — A Republican delegate says he will force a floor vote on his bill to designate English as the official state language if a House committee rejects his legislation today.

Delegate Pat McDonough of Baltimore County said he expects the House Health and Government Operations Committee to reject his bill today because he has only nine of the 13 votes needed for passage.

“We are going to try to get this bill voted on on the floor through an amendment or something,” he said, “because we think the entire House of Delegates needs to go on record.”

House Deputy Majority Whip Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who immigrated from Jamaica and is one of the bill’s most vocal opponents, said it will oppress newcomers to the state.

“I believe its divisive,” said Mrs. Nathan-Pulliam, Baltimore Democrat and committee member. “I don’t think there is any immigrant that I have ever met that does not want to learn English.”

Other Democratic committee members concurred.

Delegate Gareth E. Murray of Montgomery County described the bill as an “onion” in discussing his opposition to it.

“When you pull back the layers of this bill, you will find stuff to oppress folks,” he said.

Delegate Sue Kullen of Calvert County said she thinks the bill is designed to “find excuses not to help people.”

But Mr. McDonough said his bill is “pro-immigration” and “is designed to encourage people to learn English.”

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly has passed such legislation twice before — once in 1995, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, vetoed it; and in 1998, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening, also a Democrat, vetoed it.

Mr. Schaefer, now the state comptroller, has said he supports the legislation.

Mr. McDonough said the bill has more than 30 Republican and Democratic supporters in the House, leading him to think a floor vote could make for an intense debate.

Henry P. Fawell, spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, would not say whether the governor would sign the bill.

Twenty-seven states — including Virginia — have designated English as the official language of state government, according to U.S. English Inc., a lobbying group.

About half of world’s countries have designated official languages, according to online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

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