AJC – English-only proposal for driving exams up for vote Wednesday | ajc.com

English-only proposal for driving exams up for vote Wednesday  | ajc.com

Georgia Politics 1:47 p.m. Monday, February 7, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A proposal that would offer Georgia’s driving test only in English is headed for a vote by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, despite an apparent party-line division over the issue.

House Bill 72 would require that the driver’s license exam be given in English for permanent residents of the state. Drivers on visas can take the test in 14 different languages for up to a decade.

“There are any number of signs in English you need to be able to read,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville. “I see it as a public safety issue.”

Several advocacy groups, including those representing Asian-Americans, say the measure could hurt the state’s efforts to attract foreign business and investors.

Critics also note there is no data to suggest that non-English speakers cause any more accidents or dangerous conditions than illiterate drivers, who would continue to be allowed to have the test read to them.

“If the issue is safety of not being able to read the sign, I’m not sure of the distinction,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.

If the House approves the bill, it heads to the Senate for review. Both chambers passed a similar measure last year, but it was not signed into law.

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