PIERRE, S.D. — Luz Selene Zamorano’s mother drove her to school until she was faced with her final warning from law enforcement.

Zamorano testified as a proponent of Senate Bill 70 during the Senate Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

The bill would allow the application, preparation materials, and examination for any noncommercial driver license or permit to be available in the Spanish language.

The exam is only available in English in South Dakota, though someone taking the exam can hire an interpreter to assist them with the exam.

Zamorano told lawmakers that she didn’t live in an area of Sioux Falls that had a bus stop when she was a child, so her mother asked a neighbor who seemed trustworthy to drive Zamorano to school and back.

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That’s when the neighbor started to exhibit inappropriate behavior toward Zamorano as a child.

Zamorano said she felt too ashamed to tell her mother or anyone about how the man treated her during those rides to and from school, and began to fake being sick to avoid the rides.

That’s when officers threatened to charge her mother with truancy because Zamorano was missing so much school.

“So I continued taking more rides from this man,” Zamorano said.

Zamorano told lawmakers that the drivers exam was too difficult for her mother to pass in English.

Now Zamorano works as an interpreter where she helps people take South Dakota’s written driving exam, which costs about $70 per service.

Zamorano was one of many who testified in support of SB 70.

During the committee meeting, the bill’s prime sponsor, District 7 state Sen. V.J. Smith, R-Brookings, also offered an amendment to the bill that would require the skills exam to be taken in English.

Smith said in his hometown of Eureka, German was often the primary language used, so he knows the obstacles people can face when English is their second language.

Smith added that English is a difficult language to learn as it is, and first generation immigrants typically learn how to speak it well, but comprehending written English much more difficult to do.

Legislators deferred taking action on the bill and the amendment until a meeting on Friday, Feb. 7.

Tom Murphy, operations manager for Parker Transfer and Storage of Sioux Falls, also testified in support of the bill, saying that offering the written drivers exam in Spanish would be a business and development tool.

“The first thing I ask is, ‘Do you have a valid driver’s license?”

Murphy said that the workers are often tasked with driving vans around town and having a driver’s license also would ensure their ability to get to work from home.

“The amount of work I have to turn away is staggering,” Murphy said, referring to those he has to turn away because they do not have a valid driver’s license.

It would be a shame if we lost out on an opportunity just because we had a roadblock on this driver's license exam,” Murphy said.

“We would like immigrant type workers to assimilate to our culture. Quite frankly I don’t know what assimilation is if it’s not going to the exam station, handing over two pay stubs, documentation and saying ‘I want to get my drivers license. I want to be able to take my kids to and from the grocery store.’”

No one testified in opposition to the bill during Wednesday’s meeting.