Spanish-language driving exams bill headed for final vote

March 5, 2020 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A proposal to give South Dakotans the option to take the written-portion of driver’s license examinations in Spanish is headed to a final vote in the House after a committee approved it Thursday.

Proponents from the Latino community in South Dakota told lawmakers it would empower them to get to work, take their kids to school and participate in community events. A similar proposals died last year, but the measure this year appears to have broad support, including from business groups. It has already passed in the Senate.

Alex Ramirez, a member of the Hispanic Business Network in Sioux Falls, said South Dakota is one of three states that does not allow driver’s license exams to be taken in Spanish. It has sent a message to Latinos that they are not welcome in the state, he said.

Sen. V.J. Smith, the Brookings Republican who introduced the bill, said he has had to overcome attitudes from constituents and some lawmakers that people should only speak English. He pointed out that there are German-speaking communities in the state.

The House Transportation committee passed the bill on an 8-3 vote.

Lawmakers opposed to the measure said drivers should be able to read road signs in English.