Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Georgia Drives Closer to English-only License Testing

Georgia is moving towards becoming the first state in the country to mandate English-only tests for driver's licenses. And members of the business community are worried that the proposal could cost the state money in commerce.

The plan would require English only tests for permanent driver's licenses. Right now, the state offers individual driver's license tests in 12 languages other than English. But Republican Senator Jack Murphy is concerned that people who can't read the signs written in English are driving in harm's way. He says that's all Senate Bill 67 aims to fix.
"It is purely a safety issue. It has not a anti-immigrant bill and I take exception to the people that're saying that."
One of the people criticizing the bill is Peter Isbister, who's with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He says the bill could have a chilling effect on economic development in Georgia, tempting businesses to look elsewhere for expansion. Issbisster points to the city of Nashville, Tennessee, where a similar proposal was rejected.
"When we see foreign investors comparing and evaluating where they want to where to go, where they want to invest, I think the message that Nashville is sending is a much more attractive one than Georgia will be sending with this bill."
That's why Issbister and other opponents of the bill wore stickers that read "SB67 equals Kia, Go Home."

Korean auto-maker Kia Motors plans to open a 2,200-acre manufacturing plant in West Point later this year.

Helen Kim is with the Korean American Coalition in Atlanta. She says the bill is sending the wrong message to:
"...hard-working families and individuals that live here - Korean and other immigrant citizens and residents, but especially to these international companies like Kia and Sandy Corporation that have been courted actively by the state to come here, bring jobs, invest money."
Right now, about 5,000 people per month request testing in a language other than English, according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. If the bill does become law, temporary driving permits could still be given in another language.

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