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Official Opinion 95-44

Official Opinion 95-44

December 1, 1995
To: 

Commissioner
Georgia Department of Public Safety

Re: 

English is the official language of the State of Georgia; therefore, there is no legal mandate for the Department of Public Safety to offer driver's license examinations in any other language.

Recently, you have inquired as to whether or not there is any obligation on the part of the Department of Public Safety to provide driver's license examinations in languages other than English. It is my understanding that the Department currently offers the examination in fourteen separate languages and has pending requests for examinations to be made available in several others.

The Department's concerns primarily focus upon two areas: the integrity of the examination process and cost. In order to provide written examinations in other languages, the Department has been required to hire outside consultants to perform the translation. The Department cannot verify, other than by hiring additional consultants, the accuracy of the translation. Furthermore, while the Department can hire consultants on a one-time basis to translate a written examination, it is clearly impossible for the Department to have translators in each of these languages at each driver's license examining station. Thus, the Department is forced to utilize friends or relatives of the applicant as translators for the other portions of the examination, which are oral. Again, the Department has no way to verify the accuracy of the translation.

As noted above, the additional cost is also significant. In addition to the one-time expense for each translation, there

are continuing additional printing and storage expenses incurred in maintaining a supply of examinations in multiple languages.

You have, therefore, after the issuance of 1995 Op. Att'y Gen. U95-16, inquired as to the Department's ability to discontinue providing examinations in languages other than English. In 1995 Op. Att'y Gen. U95-16, I opined that Resolution 70 of the 1986 Session of the General Assembly (1986 Ga. Laws 529) has the force and effect of law. I enclose a copy of that Resolution for your consideration. A close reading of this Resolution, however, indicates that it does not, as have several other matters of legislation which have not become law, either mandate the exclusive use of the English language or prohibit the use of other languages. While Resolution 70 may be law, all that it accomplishes is the designation of English as the state's official language.

Nevertheless, the General Assembly is presumed to intend some modification of the status quo when it enacts legislation. See, e.g., Butterworth v. Butterworth, 227 Ga. 301, 304-05 (1971). The General Assembly has recognized that English is "the basic language" of official business in the State of Georgia. Thus, it is my official opinion that, while Resolution No. 70 does not mandate that the Department abolish the provision of examinations in languages other than English, in the absence of any express statutory mandate to provide these examinations, it does authorize the Department to do so if it so desires. The ultimate decision, therefore, is a decision of policy to be made by the Department itself.

Prepared by:

NEAL B. CHILDERS
Senior Assistant Attorney General