A bill that would bar any state agency from accommodating non-English speakers passed a House committee Wednesday. But one House Democrat stated that HJR1042, authored by Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, appears to be crafted to hide questionable motives.
“This bill is about discrimination, pure and simple,” said Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “The unfortunate part is that several of my colleagues are pretending not to see the real reasons behind this resolution.”
Rep. Pittman said she took part in a meeting Tuesday where Department of Tourism officials discussed Oklahoma’s potential to attract international business and tourism.
“We invest hundreds of thousands of dollars each year just to attract businesses and tourism from countries such as Germany, and that investment has paid off. In order to attract these dollars, we have to publish brochures and websites in different languages. If we don’t keep up these efforts, international travelers and businessmen will simply go somewhere else.”
Rep. Pittman stated that because of that, an exception was carved into the bill for revenue opportunities via tourism and commerce. There are no written exceptions to address the damage this bill could do to our state’s image, thus risking this possibility of finding a way to prevent another tax increase.
“If my colleagues are willing to compromise this resolution for the sake of keeping this revenue stream flowing, to me that says that they’re willing to compromise their principles for a price,” Rep. Pittman added.
“We are at the crossroads of America, connected from corner to corner by interstates and by Route 66. We have a diverse heritage, including the oldest and the newest cultures to live in this land. No matter what provisions are written into this bill, at its heart it sends a message to people across the globe that Oklahoma does not want your business, and that we do not want your tourism.
“The last message we need to send in tough economic times is that we are unwelcoming of new ideas on how to generate new revenue streams for economic development.”
Rep. Pittman both praised and questioned one aspect of the bill that would allow exceptions for the languages of Native Americans.
“As a proud member of the Seminole Nation, I was glad to see that this resolution allows an exception for all Native American languages. But again, the more exceptions I see to this resolution, the more I ask how can anyone believe this resolution is motivated by anything other than discrimination?”
The more exceptions you make to a so-called “English-only” bill, the weaker the argument, Rep. Pittman added.
“If you have to make a laundry list of exceptions to this bill, then why do it at all? What’s the reason for working so hard not to offend some people and then brazenly discriminating against others? This smells of hypocrisy – to say you’re making English the official language but then make official exceptions; to say one thing and then do another,” said Rep. Pittman.