"English Only" Bill Passes House Transportation Committee

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A bill that would require all written examinations for all driver licenses be in English passed in the full House Transportation committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Rep. Eric Watson, prime sponsor of the bill, said that HB 0262 "will put thousands of taxpayer dollars back into our budget, and most of all, make it safer for our drivers on our Tennessee roadways.

"As a legislator who represents the people of my district in Bradley, Polk, and Meigs Counties, I often discover the solution to a problem is not passing another law, but simply enforcing a law that already exists. Here is an example. In 1984 Tennessee adopted a law making English the official language of our state. The law read in part, 'All communications and publications …produced by governmental entities in Tennessee shall be in English.' In the minds of most people I think the meaning of that sentence is pretty clear.

"But what is clear to ordinary people too often seems beyond the grasp of government bureaucrats. For instance, Tennessee Department of Safety officials decided that the phrase “all communications and publications” some how does not apply to Tennessee driver’s license examinations or driver’s license study guides. They think it is perfectly okay to print study guides and administer driver’s license exams in three other languages in addition to our state official language. Those other languages are Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. That concerns me. It is bad enough to ignore a law if doing so has no consequences. But it is a different matter if ignoring a law has consequences, and they happen to be serious.

"In this case the stakes could not be higher. Ignoring the law jeopardizes the safety of everyone using our roads and highways. Drivers who cannot read highway warning and traffic signs, or hazard signs on other vehicles, or talk to police or public safety personnel in the event of a serious accident or emergency are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road. To cite one example, a few years ago 23 passengers in a bus being evacuated ahead of Hurricane Rita in Texas burned to death because their driver did not know enough English to warn them that the bus was on fire. That kind of public safety risk is unacceptable. So to enhance safety and enforce our official language law I introduced legislation this month to eliminate multi-lingual driver’s license tests and require applicants to take and pass their written and oral tests in English.

"While safety is the overriding reason for my bill, there are sound fiscal reasons too. Last year the General Assembly’s fiscal review committee found that the Department of Safety spent $64,500 just to print driver’s license study guides in Spanish. In 2008, the General Sessions Court’s language interpreter coordinator scheduled 6,838 court interpretations in the State of Tennessee and the taxpayers spent $1,058,673.96 statewide for court interpreters. Whether the actual cost is large or small, at a time of severe budget crisis it is money we simply cannot afford to spend.

"There are those who will object to my bill by saying it will discourage foreign corporations like Volkswagen from locating in Tennessee. That’s nonsense. Corporations don’t base multi-million dollar investment decisions on anything as trivial as driver’s license exams. The dozen or so managers who relocated to the U.S. when Volkswagen built its plant here all spoke fluent English. And the absence of driver’s license tests in German hardly discouraged Volkswagen.
Corporations are motivated by things like tax incentives, access to markets, transportation infrastructure, and the availability of a skilled and (English) literate workforce. And the safety of their employees on our roads is a priority for them as well.

"But the most inaccurate argument of all will be that passing my bill will make Tennessee seem “anti-immigrant.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Census data shows that immigrants who speak English fluently on average earn almost twice as much as those who don’t. Making sure that immigrants who come to Tennessee in search of a better life have real incentives to learn English, assimilate, and become self-sufficient like generations of immigrants before them is about the kindest thing we can do for them. If we keep making driver’s licenses available in some languages and not in others, where do we draw the line?

"I think it is time to put public safety ahead of other considerations and start enforcing Tennessee’s official language law the way it was written."


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ALI, HUNTER ALEXANDER  5245 OLD HIXSON PK HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 18 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA FOR RESALE --- ALLMON, MELISSA LYNNE  1608 NORTH CHESTER ROAD HIXSON, 37343  Age at Arrest: 26 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County ... (click for more)

Theodore Jablonski, 34, Arrested for Armed Robbery Saturday Morning

Theodore Jablonski, 34, was arrested on several charges Saturday morning.    Chattanooga Police responded around 11 a.m. to a home invasion at the 5500 block of Clear Creek Road. Upon police arrival, the victim, Garrison Fogtman, 24,  advised that Jablonski woke him and demanded money at gunpoint. When Jablonski was unable to retrieve any money, he took ... (click for more)

Rhonda Thurman: Speaking The Truth About CSLA

One parent called me a “Liar” during Thursday’s Facilities meeting. Others from CSLA have been a bit more creative saying that I spread “misinformation”, “falsehoods” and “spread inaccurate statements”. Then there were more descriptive terms- “arrogant”, “uninformed”, “unprofessional”- if these CSLA parents don’t stop, they are going to hurt my feelings. In this letter, I will attempt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It Ain’t Gonna Work

In the last seven days, there have been seven different people who have been shot in separate incidents in Chattanooga. On Tuesday, the City Council approved a total $223,656 in street cameras and accessories to take pictures of our gangstas when the cops already know them by first names. Late last month it was announced the Chattanooga Police Department would double our gang violence ... (click for more)

Bradley Runs Away With Another AAA State Crown

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Bradley’s Ben Smith may be one of the most excitable wrestling coaches on earth, especially when his Bears are in the middle of a tough tournament. Such was the case here at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Center this weekend as the Bears successfully defending their traditional title at the TSSAA State Meet as they finished the three-day event ... (click for more)

Father Ryan Wins Fourth Straight D-II Mat Title

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The Father Ryan wrestling team can now honestly boast “four-peat” when anyone asked about the most recent Division II state wrestling tournament. The Purple Irish won the state duals two weeks ago and they added another traditional title here at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Center Saturday night. Saturday’s victory is the 21 st overall for ... (click for more)