"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 Bradley County Arrest Report

Click here  for the latest Bradley County arrest report. (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report for Hamilton County: ALFORD, KAREEM DENARD  1154 E MAIN ST CHATTANOOGA, 374081610  Age at Arrest: 35 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga AGGRAVATED BURGLARY (OCCUPIED HABITATION) DOMESTIC ASSAULT TAMPERING WITH OR FABRICATING EVIDENCE RESISTING ARREST OR OBSTRUCTION OF LEGAL PROCESS EVADING ARREST POSSESSION ... (click for more)

Is This Really About Slavery?

The greatest thing that came out of the American Civil War came after the cessation of hostilities. After four years of deadly, devastating, agonizing war and over 600,000 Americans had died, the armies came to a halt. The killing ended, but the suffering continued for many of the wounded and those whose homes and fortunes had gone up in smoke and been left as rubble. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Ordinary To Extraordinary

A handsome black guy, from the looks of it still in high school, appeared in a video during the A Celebration of Valor luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center Tuesday afternoon and described a Medal of Honor winner. Easily over 500 were there, including our famed Charles Coolidge, and all heard this young achiever say, “A Medal recipient is an ordinary person who performs ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Gets Revenge With Boyd-Buchanan

The Notre Dame volleyball team may have felt they let one get away in the championship match of the Hixson Invitational Saturday afternoon against the Boyd-Buchanan Lady Buccaneers, but they were bound to not let it happen again. At least, not during a home match against these same Lady Bucs Tuesday evening in the rowdy confines of their Jack Steiner Sr. Gymnasium. The Lady ... (click for more)

Despite Sloppy Finish, Lady Raiders Sweep McMinn

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Cleveland High School’s volleyball team came close to completely satisfying its coach Tuesday. The Lady Raiders then got lazy. Coach Trish Flowers, who has another state tournament contender on her hands this season, let the squad feel her displeasure in the postgame huddle. “I was within just a few minutes of being in a good mood,” said Flowers, ... (click for more)