Missouri House passes legislaion - Read in english or don't drive

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MissouriNews Horizon JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation that would require state driver’s license examinations, written and driving, be given in English only.

It marks the second year in a row the Republican dominated House of Representatives has moved the bill forward. A similar measure died in the state Senate last year.

Supporters of the legislation say the bill is common sense legislation.

“This bill says we want you to come to our state and understand our laws and understand our signs,” said Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. “There are many, many signs out there that have specific instructions, and if you can not read the language, you can not claim to be safe.”

But to those who oppose the legislation, the bill is an attack on immigrants that sends a bad message about the state to outsiders.

“We want to talk about foreign trade with the Chinese, but we don’t want to have our state welcoming to foreigners,” said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis. “This country was founded by people from different nationalities coming to America to set up house. Everybody that came here were immigrants.”

Others who opposed the bill said it would drive insurance rates up, because those immigrants who can not read English would still try to drive without a license.

“This bill has no purpose, except jingoism,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. “I hope the body will rise above its lowest common denominator and defeat this ill-advised piece of legislation.”

The legislation passed the House by a 93-63 margin. Eleven Republican House members crossed over to vote against the legislation, including Branson Republican Rep. Don Phillips, a retired Missouri Highway Patrolman. He said during debate that the roads would not be safer simply because the state required driver’s license examinations to be given in English.

“I think (the issue) paints this body as being exclusionary and possibly even discriminatory,” said Phillips.

Five House Democrats, from mostly rural areas of the state, voted for the legislation.