Bredesen: English-only license bill unnecessary

Associated Press • Mar 5, 2007 at 11:21 AM

NASHVILLE - Gov. Phil Bredesen says a bill aimed at fighting illegal immigration by requiring written driver's license examinations in Tennessee be given in English is "political posturing" and isn't needed.

The governor said during a telephone conference call with reporters on Friday that the state currently will only test people for driver's licenses who have proof that they are either American citizens or legal immigrants.

Republicans on Thursday criticized Matt Kisber, the state's economic and community development commissioner, after he said such bills create problems for the state's efforts to recruit foreign investment.

"I think of these things as having a political posturing component to them," Bredesen said. "I think Matt's concern is that while he's busy trying to convince foreign investment to come here, for us to be sending signals like this... it's kind of so senseless, its not really doing anything."

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who is sponsoring the bill, said it is not posturing and "sets the tone for the other 31 bills that we (Senate Republicans) are getting ready to bring forward" on immigration-related issues.

"What it does is it codifies what is currently in the regulations," he said.

Ketron's bill is scheduled for debate Monday on the Senate floor. The measure originally would have required all drivers license exams to be conducted in English only.

It since has been amended twice and now mirrors the state's year-old practice requiring foreign nationals seeking a drivers license to submit federal documentation verifying they are in the U.S. legally.

Currently, only six states give English-only driver's license exams, according to Joseph Sweat, a member of the national executive committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, who opposes the legislation.

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