Harsh words are exchanged prior to a House vote, approving a bill that would require that a Missouri driver’s test be taken in English; only.

Minority Leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City spoke for many House Democrats in criticizing the English-only driver exam bill.

“This bill is xenophobic,” Talboy flatly stated during House floor debate.

Talboy claimed that HB 167 demonstrated that Republicans fear foreigners or anyone not like them.

“This is about legal immigrants,” Talboy emphasized during debate. “This is about people who are here legally. And, we’re going to go after them now, because quite frankly we’re running out of groups to pick on now.”

Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, a Republican from Eureka, disagreed with Talboy’s assessment when asked about it by reporters afterward.

“Well, I disagree that the bill is any sort of of xenophobia,” Jones stated. “I think it’s disappointing that members decided to make political points on that bill and say that Missouri is closed to people who are different.”

Missouri gives the driver’s test in 11 languages now.

Jones also dismissed suggestions that majority Republicans are playing politics with the bill, attempting to play to their base. He said it’s a common sense measure that will make Missouri roads safer.

The House approved the bill 102-56. It now moves to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]

AUDIO: House floor debate on HB 167 [50 min MP3]