Missouri bills cover medical certification, English-only licensing

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 24, 2012

Topics of interest to truck drivers that are moving forward at the Missouri statehouse cover commercial vehicle and personal licensing requirements.

Nearing passage in the Missouri General Assembly is a bill to bring the state in line with the federal rules on medical certification.

CDL holders operating interstate are required to provide proof from a doctor to state licensing offices that they are healthy enough to get behind the wheel. Failure to certify by early 2014 could result in a downgrade of licenses and possible suspension.

The House Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill to the House floor that would make sure state statute matches with federal requirements. If approved there, SB443 move back to the Senate for approval of changes before it can head to the governor’s desk.

Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, wrote in his newsletter the change he put into motion is necessary “to bring the state in line with federal standards and put more money toward our roads.”

States such as Missouri have every incentive to adopt the federal rules. Failure to meet deadlines could cost states 5 percent of federal highway funds. In the case of the Show-Me State, failure to act would result in the loss of $30 million.

Another bill on the move is intended to help ensure that aspiring motorists have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their licenses to drive.

Missouri law now offers licensing for personal licenses in 11 languages. Would-be truck drivers are limited to English-only testing.

The House voted 93-63 on Thursday, Feb. 23, to advance a bill to require both portions of the examinations for personal licenses – written test and skill test – to be administered only in English. HB1186 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also would be required. They would be prohibited from using translators while taking the tests.

Supporters say they are concerned that people are allowed to drive on roads without a command of the English language. They say it’s a matter of safety.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. They also say restricting tests to English-only would hurt economic development in the state.

According to a fiscal note, limiting printed and computerized versions of tests to one language would save the state $52,580 in the next fiscal year.

A year ago the effort also won approval in the House only to die in the Senate.

This year’s version could be bolstered in the Senate following recent reports about a federal grand jury in Kansas City, MO, indicting 14 defendants for conspiring to provide Missouri driver’s licenses for more than 3,500 illegal immigrants living across the country.

Nearly half of the defendants allegedly accompanied illegal immigrants to license offices, often posing as translators, to help them with the process.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

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