Senate Panel to Hear Tenn. English License Bill


NASHVILLE (AP) – A measure that would require Tennessee's driver's license test to be given only in English is more likely to pass this session despite concerns from some opponents that it will hurt the state's economic development.

The Senate Transportation Committee was scheduled to hear the proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro on Wednesday. A similar measure passed the Senate last year, but failed in the House.

However, because the GOP controls both chambers – and every committee in both is headed by a Republican – the measure is expected to pass this year.

Supporters of the bill say it's intended to promote safety. But critics say any proposal that restricts the test to English-only will hurt economic development in Tennessee.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga said he's "open to the idea" of the proposal, but believes it needs to be worded carefully because of investors like Volkswagen, which is based in Germany and is building a $1 billion assembly plant in Chattanooga that's expected to create 2,000 jobs.

"We just need to make sure that it protects foreign investment, especially people who spend billions of dollars," McCormick said. "We want to make sure it doesn't affect economic development in a bad way."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville agreed.

"If they go into this nationalistic, jingoistic mode, I think when other people come to invest their money in Tennessee, they'll take notice of that," he said.

Lawmakers against the proposal have said the passage of such legislation in Tennessee may cause the state to suffer the same repercussions as Arizona, whose tourism industry received a backlash from a sweeping law it passed last year targeting illegal immigration.

Its provisions included requiring police enforcing another law to question a person about his or her immigration status, if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is in the United States illegally. It also made it a state crime to be in the country illegally.

Read SB0010 at

Associated Press writer Erik Schelzig contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.