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Language should be English say lawmakers

The official language of the state of Wisconsin will be English if some lawmakers get their way.

The group has introduced a bill (AB 289) which would make English the official language of the state.

The primary author of the bill is longtime Democratic lawmaker Rep. Marlin Schneider, Wisconsin Rapids, who says the bill isn't anti-immigrant, but intended to bring people together.

"A common language is the most essential element in holding a society together," said Schneider.

"Without a common language there is the threat of turmoil and anarchy," Schneider added.

"There is also the threat of those who don't speak the society's language of not being able to fully participate in the society," he added.

One of the bill's co-signers, Sen. Alan Lasee, R-De Pere, says he is supporting the bill because it makes sense and would make things a lot easier for government agencies, especially law enforcement, to have one language.

He noted that on a trip he took to a Division of Motor Vehicles office in Green Bay he saw license information in about a half-dozen languages.

"How do you observe and read highway signs if you can't read the language?" said Lasee.

The bill recognizes that other languages are a part of the state's culture and does not prevent anyone from using another language.

State employees could also use another language when they are not on the job.

However, the bill would require that all written documents in the state be done in English unless another law requires otherwise.

"I really believe in my heart that when this country was founded and people came from all over, English was the language and everyone learned it," Lasee said.

Schneider said he is concerned because, like other states, Wisconsin is seeing a large influx of illegal immigrants who have no desire to learn the nation's cultural language, which he says is English.

This, he says, can have a very substantial impact on society.

"It makes it very hard when people can't understand each other. It leaves them vulnerable," Schneider said.

As an example, he said that if a contract is in one language and the individual signing it can't read that language they could be taken advantage of.

Lasee noted that so far the legislation has received a cool reception in Madison.

Contact Brady Bautch at