By JOE BIESK
Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- People who don't speak English will still have a chance at getting a Kentucky driver's license, Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday, reversing a policy his administration was set to implement next month.
Beshear, a Democrat, said he did not learn until Tuesday night of the Kentucky State Police's cost-saving plan to only offer driver's license tests in English. The change, which was set to take effect next month, was a mistake that would have ended a long-standing practice in Kentucky, Beshear said.
"I believe the state police made a mistake here," Beshear said. "And when I find out about a mistake, I think the way to handle it is to acknowledge that we've made a mistake, correct it and move on. So that's what we're doing."
For years, Kentucky has offered its written driver's license tests in other languages. It's offered in 22 languages besides English, including Arabic, Korean, and Somali, Beshear's spokesman Jay Blanton said in an e-mail.
But with the state facing a possible $1 billion or more budget shortfall in the fiscal year starting July 1, state police officials had decided to end the different language options starting next month.
Kentucky State Police spokesman Sgt. David Jude said the plan to eliminate non-English tests would have saved about $100,000 for salaries, interpretive costs and printing costs. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 non-English tests were administered in 2008, Jude said in an e-mail.
Nevertheless, Beshear said that even though the state is facing tough financial times it must balance cost-cutting measures with providing services. And helping people adapt to living in Kentucky encourages more investment and raises the quality of life, Beshear said.
"Kentucky, for years, has positioned itself as a welcoming state for folks from all over the world and it has paid off," Beshear said. "We have attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment from all around the globe. Part of the reason that we have done that is because we have been a welcoming state."
The test is also offered in Albanian, Bosnian, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Croatian, French, German, Hindu, Japanese, Laotian, Persian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese, Blanton said.
Other states have considered similar English-only driver's license testing policies this year.
A proposal before Tennessee's legislature, which eventually stalled, would have limited the tests to English, German, Korean, Japanese and Spanish. A proposal that stalled earlier this year in the Georgia legislature would have required new drivers to take their written tests in English.
The concept is not new to Kentucky either. A 2007 Kentucky proposal that stalled in the General Assembly would have required all state documents, unless specifically authorized in the law, to be written in English.
Still, Lexington Republican State Rep. Stan Lee said he thought Beshear's decision was "shortsighted" both with safety and economics. Lee, who sponsored the 2007 proposal in Kentucky, said state officials should be looking "everywhere we can" to save money.
"This is one place we could do it and should do it, quite frankly," Lee said. "I think people, if they're going to enjoy the privilege of driving on the roads of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, then they ought to be able to read and speak the language and take the test in English."
So here is the "story",
Why is there no LOCAL reporting about this? The Capital of the state, has to rely on the reporting of the AP to develop a story about OUR states drivers license testing regulations?
Who is in charge of this mad house called the State Journal?
Why should there be Kentucky Drivers License testing literature written in ANYTHING other than English?
If you can't read English, then you should not be driving on American roadways to begin with. It does not matter if you are German, Mexican, Asian, or a little green man from Mars!
Throw out the "International" traffic signage as an example. Now think about the pure language of the actual designated written signage....
Street signs, off ramp signage, distance signage, emergency notification signage (the new LED banners), highway designations, SPEED LIMIT signage.......
If you can't read English well enough to read the book where you are tested on those very issues, how in the hell can you drive down the road where those signs are in fact used!
When we drive in Germany.....we have to learn German if we want a license (and you won't believe the hoops you have to jump through to get a foreign nationals license in the EU). Same with Japan, Spain, S.A.....
WHY! Has it become UNAMERICAN to require those who COME TO AMERICA, to actually learn to speak, read, and function on a daily basis in ENGLISH?
If we were to go to China and say "Hey I want to become a Chinese Citizen!"....isn't it common sense to believe it might be a good idea to learn Chinese? Or Spanish, or German, or whatever the language might be in the nation you choose to live in.
WHY! Would a governor who has taxed every aspect of Kentucky heritage and labeled it a "sin tax" to bridge his "budget", make a proclamation denouncing an action which was implemented to in fact SAVE THE GOVERNMENT MONEY!
What a joke....