I don’t often get a chance to say good things about the Georgia Legislature, but since they’ve given me a shot, I better take it:
A move to require Georgia’s driving test be given only in English stalled Wednesday after a majority of the House approved an amendment that effectively gutted the bill.
House Bill 72 would require the driver’s license exam be given in English for permanent residents of the state.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, said the issue was safety. But freshman Rep. B.J. Pak won over lawmakers with his amendment that required the state only to update its sign test to include the most common English words used on digital signs.
The issue had nothing to do with safety. Nothing whatsoever. Under Mills’ original proposal, the driver’s test would continue to be given in its current 14 languages to foreign-born drivers who are applying for their first Georgia drivers’ license. After 10 years, those drivers would have to be retested using an English version of the test.
In other words, the bill wouldn’t really have had much impact. It was largely symbolic, allowing Mills and his colleagues to brag about how tough they were being on immigrant. (It’s important to note that the bill was aimed at legal immigrants only — by law, illegal immigrants can’t get drivers’ licenses in the first place.)
However, symbolism can work in a variety of ways. In this case, it would have allowed other states to depict Georgia as a place that is unfriendly to foreigners, and to major foreign companies — Kia, BMW, Sony, etc. — that employ them.
At least for now, that danger has been averted.
– Jay Bookman