Dear TNHCC Members:
Last year Nashvillians confronted and defeated an unpleasant effort to make all Davidson County services be provided in "English Only." Nashville was viewed across the nation as an unwelcoming city for even considering such an action. In addition, this divisive effort cost residents nearly $300,000 to produce a vote in which this proposal was soundly defeated. We thought that vote sent a message loud and clear to the outsiders that we wanted no part of such a proposition.
Unfortunately this time these same outsiders have convinced some state legislators to sponsor a bill requiring that state driver's license exams should be given only in English. Many people come to the United States to make valuable temporary and permanent contributions to our economic development via talent or financial investment. It often takes a while to learn a language as complicated as English and although they may understand our traffic rules, they may test better in their own language.
On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, the Public Safety subcommittee of the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to pass the English-Only Driver License bill (HB0262 by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland). Most on the subcommittee ignored strong opposition from Volkswagen, Nissan, Department of Safety, Economic Development, TIRRC and Tennessee residents. Sen. Dewayne Bunch, R-Cleveland will sponsor the senate version of the bill.
I am asking you join the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to take steps to defeat this misguided effort. Let's be strategic in our efforts. As business owners send letters to these legislators and indicate that highway safety is not a function of English only.
As a tourist, how often do we rent cars in a foreign country without comprehension of that language? Ask why should Tennessee once again suffer national embarrassment as an unwelcoming state?
Please take the time to express your dissatisfaction with this proposed legislation.
TN House and Senate Transportation Committee Members:
Maria Teresa "Tera" Vazquez
TNHCC Board President
UPDATE MARCH 23: Bill passes Senate Transportation Committee
The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee on March 23, with an exception for certain people, according to the Times Free Press. H/T Post Politics.