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English-only fails as constitutional amendment
Legislative update
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A legislative effort to amend the state Constitution and make English the official language of Georgia failed Tuesday in the House.
A simple majority of 103-61 voted in favor of HR 413, but 120 votes were needed for passage.
Opponents of the measure said it was unnecessary because the General Assembly had already passed a law, in 2002, naming English as the official language in our state. HR 413 would have limited the use of languages other than English to only specific purposes and required all driver's license exams to be in English only.
While this is an apparent attempt to crack down on illegal immigration, the driver's license provision would have an impact on many legal immigrants as well and affected their ability to work. HR 413 could very well have had a negative impact on employment in Georgia and increased the welfare rolls. The bill was not consistent with the values of this state.
Immigration opponents were successful Thursday in adopting HB 978, by a 104-51 vote. This measure states that any motor vehicle being driven by an illegal immigrant when they are pulled over for a traffic stop or violation or involved in an accident can be seized under Georgia's forfeiture laws.
Many lawmakers were concerned that employers could lose their company or farm vehicles if they allowed them to be driven by someone they did not know was an illegal immigrant. Law enforcement's ability to check immigration status was also a concern. The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to testify by conference call to the Vermont State Senate on the issue of using granite imported from China for the construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I repeated my contention in HR 1115 that it is inappropriate to honor our greatest civil rights leader with stone imported from one of the world's leading civil rights abusers, when there is sufficient granite here in Dr. King's home country and state. Both Georgia and Vermont are leading granite suppliers in the U.S.
During Senior Week at the State Capitol, it was a pleasure seeing Hinesville City Council member David Anderson and former Walthourville Mayor Henry Frasier representing the interests of Liberty County seniors.
Also, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and City Manager Billy Edwards visited the legislature to express their views on the Republican tax plan, HR 1246 and HB 979, which is coming under increased scrutiny every day.
On Thursday, House Democrats came out strongly against the 175 new sales and use taxes that would be added under the plan to offset the elimination of the school portion of residential property taxes and the ad valorem tax on vehicles.
The Republican tax plan would reinstate the state sales tax on groceries and would add a four percent sales tax on 175 goods and services not presently taxed, including haircuts, auto parts, ATM fees, home improvements, legal and accounting services and many others.
Support for the plan continues to erode as the proposal has been exposed as a tax shift, rather than true tax relief.
On Wednesday, the House paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all African-American military unit who served in World War II. HR 1023, which passed unanimously, recognizes and honors the Tuskegee Airmen for their dedicated service to the United States. The resolution also names a portion of a highway in Fulton County near Hartsfield-Jackson International  Airport as Tuskegee Airmen Parkway.
Lawmakers were to reconvene Tuesday for the 27th legislative day of the 2008 session.

Williams (D-Midway) represents the 165th District (Liberty  County) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA  30334; by phone at 404-656-6372, 404-326-2964, 912-977-5600 or by e-mail at

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