South Dakota’s House of Representatives approved legislation allowing Spanish-language driver’s license written tests in a 42-24 vote last month.
The House passed Senate Bill 70 with amendments clearly stating that the written test can be taken in Spanish or English, but the driving skills test would remain in English only. The amended version also changes the bill’s effective date to Jan. 1, 2021. The bill will now go to the Senate to concur on the amendments and if approved, and signed by Gov. Kristi Noem, will leave Wyoming, and Utah as the only states not to offer a Spanish driving test.
According to the Rapid City Journal, Bill sponsor Rep. Jess Olson, R-Rapid City, pointed out that residents need to be able to drive to get to work, which will in turn result in taxes for the state and money going into the local economy, arguing: “We want to be open for business.”
In opposition, Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, claimed it created a “cultural divide,” adding that there were a lot of other languages spoken in South Dakota. He also alleged that the bill was pushed by chambers of commerce with the idea that Spanish was “good enough” for tradespeople who didn’t need to assimilate.