English-only bills killed in Alabama

| 5/7/2008

An Alabama Senate panel has put off action on two bills that seek to mandate that the state’s driver’s license tests be offered only in English and implement a rule that English is the state’s official language. The move effectively kills both bills.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted to delay action on a bill – SB447 –introduced by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale. It would have ended the practice of offering driver’s license exams in 14 languages.

The second bill – SB446 – would have implemented a state constitutional amendment approved in 1990 that made English the official language in Alabama. It would have prevented official government records from being published in multiple languages.

Supporters say the restrictions are needed to help ensure that drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their license to drive. Beason also pointed out that road signs are in English.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes drivers better. Others say the proposal would discriminate against American citizens who are not fluent in English.

With only a handful of days remaining in the regular session, both initiatives likely will have to wait until next year for further consideration.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor