Ga. House tables English-only driver tests

ATLANTA — The Georgia House today put the brakes on a bill that would require Georgia driver's license exams for permanent residents to be given only in English.

The House voted 115-50 to table the legislation after passing an amendment that effectively gutted it.

It pitted concerns about public safety on one side against worries about discrimination and economic development on the other.

Supporters of the bill — including sponsor state Rep. James Mills — said the current policy of allowing drivers tests to be administered in 14 languages poses a safety hazard since road signs are printed in English.

Mills said drivers must be able to read digital road signs that give text messages, not just recognizable symbols like the familiar red "Stop" sign.

"I want to make sure the driver behind my child in a school bus can read that sign," Mills said.

But opponents said that's xenophobic. They noted that illiterate Georgians — who presumably also cannot read digital road signs — can take the test orally.

"We cannot in good conscience legislate intolerance," state Democratic Rep. Pedro Marin, of Duluth, said.

Others — including Republicans — argued the GOP measure could harm the state's efforts to attract foreign visitors and economic development from abroad.

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