2/9 AJC – House puts brakes on English-only driving test | ajc.com

House puts brakes on English-only driving test  | ajc.com

 

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Georgia Politics 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

That would mean the driving exam could continue to be given in 14 languages, but the sign portion would require a greater comprehension of English.

“It’s a more nuanced way to address the problem of safety rather than just say English-only,” said Pak, a Republican from Lilburn.

Pak’s amendment passed 88-78 across party lines. That prompted the House to vote 115-50 to set the bill aside.

It became clear in an hour of debate that the political will to pass the measure was struggling. Democrats and Republicans alike opposed the measure, saying it could harm the state’s effort to attract foreign business and investors.

Critics also noted there was no evidence 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.

An amendment to eliminate that exception for illiterate drivers failed.

Still, the vote creates an uncertain fate for the measure. Mills said he had concerns that the amendment would not go far enough to create safer roads, but he lost a bid to get the House to immediately reconsider his bill.

“The Pak amendment guts the heart of this bill,” he said.

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