His recent stance on English only for certain driver’s license exams has made him a target of criticism, but state Rep. Buddy Carter said he isn’t anti-immigration.
In a recent column printed in several papers, including the Effingham Herald, Carter espoused his support for Senate Bill 67, which would have mandated exams for a permanent driver’s license be issued in English only.
“It was viewed as some as anti-immigrant,” he said of his column. “That was not my intent. I am not anti-immigration. But if you’re going to be a permanent resident, you need to learn the language.”
Carter, speaking to the Rincon Noon Lions Club earlier this week, spelled out why he supports SB 67, which did not pass in the recent General Assembly session. The Department of Driver Services currently offers the license exam in 14 languages.
Those wishing to obtain a temporary license could be able to take their driver’s exam in any one of those 14 languages now offered. But Carter said being able to read English in order to follow the traffic signs should be done.
“I still feel like to be able to drive, you ought to be able to read English,” he said. “In Mexico, they don’t offer the driver’s license exam in English. If you’re going to drive on our roads and be able to read the road signs, you should be able to read them in English.”
He also reiterated his support for SB 86, which calls for voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before they can cast their ballot. That bill passed the House by a 104-67 margin and is on Gov. Sonny Perdue’s desk waiting to be signed.
Carter, long a proponent of a statewide trauma care system, didn’t vote for the “super speeder” legislation that tacks on $200 fines on drivers who exceed the speed limit by 15 miles per hour. For starters, the bill says the $23 million expected to be generated may be reserved for trauma care.
“There’s a big difference between ‘shall’ and ‘may,’” he said. “The super speeder fines are not dedicated to trauma. We should have a dedicated revenue stream for trauma. I wasn’t a real big fan of the super speeder bill. The thing that made the difference is trauma. We’re thankful for the $23 million this year.”
Carter also said the fines may not generate $23 million — and they may not even come close to that figure. The state only has four level 1 trauma centers, one each in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah. There are nine level 2 trauma centers — and only one south of Macon — and no level 3 trauma centers in the state.
“In Georgia, there is a 20 percent greater chance that you will die because of the lack of a trauma care system,” Carter said.
Memorial’s level 1 trauma center was put to the test February 2008 in the moments after the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion. The blast eventually claimed the lives of 14 people, but the toll could have been even higher without the nearby trauma center.
“Had it not been for us having a level 1 trauma center at Memorial, we would have lost 11-12 more people,” he said, noting the remarks of Joseph M. Still Burn Center medical director Dr. Fred Mullins to lawmakers. “You can see how important it is.”
The “super speeder” bill, even if it doesn’t produce the expected fines, could serve another purpose that may lessen the number of patients brought into trauma centers.
“It does change behavior. We do need to slow down,” Carter said. “But I didn’t want to see happen what happened, where people said, ‘we have trauma care taken care of.’”
Carter said that polls show that 74 percent of Georgians said they would be willing to pay for a trauma care network. But the governor is philosophically opposed to dedicated funding streams.
“Sometimes, that’s not a good relationship between the governor, the legislature and the hospitals,” Carter said.