Georgia lawmakers debate an English-only state

Georgia lawmakers debate an English-only state

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A debate in the Georgia Senate could cost the state $5 billion and 50,000 jobs, and it all has to do with how we communicate.

This debate is over whether the Georgia government should do business in the English language ONLY. English is the state's official language, but some lawmakers believe the issue needs to be cleared up and revised. Others say - this is nonsense.

For example, when you're waiting in line to apply for one a driver's license, you can take the test in English and 10 other languages. This is something Senator Joshua McKoon says is a waste of your money. He's referring to the cost of printing different documents and providing interpreters is out of line. He also says people have to know English to drive anyway.

During a phone interview with WTOC, McKoon said, "As I'm driving down Interstate 85 right now and looking at road signs, the road signs are in one language. They're in English, so why on Earth would we be administering the driver's license examination in 11 different foreign languages?"

This is partially true. The road rules portion of the driver's license test has an 11 language option, but the road sign test is only available in English.

Opposing Senator Steve Henson says we have workers who drive for UPS, UBER, - you name it - who need language options, and also need a license to insure their cars. He believes if you create a language barrier, then you create an even bigger mess.

"They won't get a driver's license. They'll still drive. They won't be insured. It will create a public risk that is unnecessary," Henson said.

Henson also has a school in his district with a large refugee population and students from 59 different countries in attendance. He says they need various languages to convey important messages to parents about meetings, or in the case of an emergency. Senator McKoon says K-12 kids should be learning English anyways in order to be successful.

"They're gonna have a much easier time if they can read, understand, write, and speak the English language," McKoon said.

To be clear, this proposed bill exempts schools, as well as the courts, public hospitals, and public safety. What some say isn't clear is the impact this measure could have on future development, including the $5 billion, 50,000 employee gamble the state is making on an Amazon Headquarters. However, McKoon is not worried.

Even if you were to tell me you had conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. Besos and he had said 'I'm not coming to Georgia if they have official English,' then I think we have to ask ourselves a question," McKoon said. "Am I responsible to the 175,000 people in Senate District 29, or am I responsible to the 50 top Fortune 500 CEO's in the country?"

The Senate floor will be able to ask and answer this question as a whole as the 2018 legislative session continues. If you have any thoughts or concerns on this bill, WTOC recommends for you to reach out to your local congressman - and soon - as this legislative session is time-restricted.

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.