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House panel's 6-3 vote bids adios to controversial English-only bill

Utah will remain without an official language.

In a 6-3 vote Tuesday, members of House Government Operations Standing Committee rejected Rep. Tammy Rowan's HB187 that would designate English as the state's official language.Rowan, R-Orem, said she won't try to bring the back this year. "I think it is over," she said.

The decision prompted cheers from several of the 100 people crammed into a Capitol committee room.

The bill would have required all government documents to be printed in English and all state business to be conducted in that language.

Prior to the vote, opponents and friends of the controversial measure testified in front of the committee.

University of Utah professor Theresa Martinez called HB187 "a shackling bill" that would limit the state's possibilities moving into the 21st century.

Rudy Black, a Ute Indian, said, "This is an insult to my tribe. This is discrimination, downgrading many people."

Those comments were answered by several immigrants speaking in favor of Rowan's bill.

Rep. Swen Nielsen, R-Provo, a retired Provo police chief and first-generation American, said his early years in a new country with a strange language "gave me a great deal of impetus to learn English."

Robert Zamora called Rowan a true patriot who has endured some heavy blows from the her bill's enemies. "Rowan was acting to provide unity," he said.

Rep. Perry Buckner, D-West Jordan, said he opposed the bill largely because of its perception - not its content. "The (human) cost is too great too divide all the cultures I've heard from," Buckner said.

Rep. Bryan D. Holladay, R-West Jordan, added Rowan's bill was not divisive or mean-spirited but said the bill was still perceived as an insult by many.

During her testimony, Rowan insisted her bill "is not against cultural diversity, it is for national unity."

Communication, Rowan said, equals understanding and would encourage a language proficiency that would provide immigrants with a brighter economic future and protection from scams.

"You cannot even work at McDonald's without English, you have to learn English to get a good job and be self-sufficient," she said.