The dumbest thing said in committee testimony to defeat a smart bill yesterday came from Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) against Senate Bill 117, South Dakota’s effort to catch up with 44 other states that offer driver’s license exams in Spanish. Prime sponsor and economist Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) joined the South Dakota, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City Chambers of Commerce and other advocates of jobs and justice to say offering driver’s license exams in Spanish would boost employment and public safety. Speaker Haugaard pointed out his obvious inability to put practical problem-solving ahead of his imagined role as a brave culture warrior:
“The idea that we’re going to dilute our population with a second culture and encourage that second culture it doesn’t advance our state at all,” Speaker of the House, Steven Haugaard said. [Ricardo Lewis, “South Dakota Lawmakers Reject Bill to Allow Spanish Driver’s License Tests,” KSFY-TV, 2019.02.27].
Allowing residents to take a test in another language does nothing to dilute our culture (which belongs to everyone, not just powerful Protestant male descendants of Danes like Speaker Haugaard). If “assimilation” is really a valid cultural goal, communicating with new Americans in other languages actually helps integrate those new Americans into our economic, political, and social culture.
My Representative Drew Dennert and eight other Republican House State Affairs members voted SB 117 a la muerte. Only Democratic Reps. McCleerey and Smith and Republican Reps. Anderson and Kent Peterson voted to listen to the economist and the business community and say we should help our new neighbors get their driver’s licenses.