Dawkins introduces bill to eliminate state government language barriers

HARRISBURG, April 19 – State Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Phila., introduced a bill to require state departments and agencies, elected row offices, and the General Assembly to craft language access plans to better serve Pennsylvania residents with a limited ability to speak or write in English.

House Bill 1241 would require these language access plans to identify all languages spoken by at least 3 percent of the population they serve, and provide vital documents and informational materials in those languages. It also requires that oral, in-person interpretive services be provided in languages encountered at least weekly.

“All Pennsylvanians should have equal access to their government,” Dawkins said. “Our departments and agencies cannot fulfill their missions if there are 500,000 people in the state they can’t communicate with. This is a matter of protecting our residents’ health, rights and well-being.”

The bill would require state agencies to submit their language access plans to the secretary of administration, who would provide central coordination and technical assistance. The secretary also would make these plans available online for the public to review. In addition to entities under the authority of the governor, the attorney general, auditor general and treasurer as well as the state House and Senate would be required to publish and implement language access plans under the bill.

“As the population of non-English speakers continues to increase, and immigration drives our population and economic growth, we must work to make Pennsylvania a welcoming and inclusive place to live,” Dawkins said.