COLUMBUS, OHIO – Congress and President Joe Biden have acted extraordinarily swiftly this week, approving Juneteenth as a national holiday, a move that has led many states to scrape their compliance policies with less than a. clear working day notice.
Almost all states recognize Juneteenth in one way or another, at least on paper. But most were slow to go beyond proclamations issued by governors or decisions passed by legislators. At least seven states have legally designated it as an officially paid holiday – Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Just this year, legislation to formally recognize Juneteenth passed away in Florida and South Dakota and it was stuck in Ohio, all states controlled by Republicans. In Maryland, where Democrats control the legislature, a 19th bill passed one chamber but died in the other.
The effort is reminiscent of the protracted battles over the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the last time the federal government announced a new holiday. This legislation, which was finally passed in 1983, planned that the holiday would begin three years later. This has sparked bitter debates in the states over whether they would institute their own holidays.
Few states have had laws on books
Only a handful of states signed up Thursday for the federal June tenth law with the paid holiday on the books to be celebrated in 2021. The governors of Washington, Illinois and Louisiana, on the other hand, all signed more recent laws that would begin. for 2022, which contributes to the confused rollout.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, announced that the state offices would be closed for half a day on Friday, just days after he signed the 19th law. The governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, has also closed government offices in his state, although the new holiday would only be held in 2023, as June 19 falls on a Sunday in 2022.
In another twist, many states have laws with provisions that automatically recognize all federal holidays – even those not mentioned in the statutes.
That was the case in Ohio, where Republican Gov. Mike DeWine issued his Juneteenth statement Thursday night. In the manner of a quick school snow day, he took note of the state’s automatic compliance with all federal holidays and declared that most government offices would be closed on Friday.
State Senator Hearcel Craig, a Columbus Democrat who is black, sponsors the bill that makes Juneteenth a paid state vacation in Ohio.
Ohio Appeals to Be a Leader
He said Friday it remains imperative that lawmakers pass the legislation, even after the federal holiday has been declared. His bill unanimously cleared the Senate of Ohio’s last session, but time was running out for its discussion in the House.
“This is Lincoln’s party,” he said of Republicans, who control both legislatures in Ohio. “My hope and expectation is that Ohio will choose to be a leader in the quest to honor black history and the movement toward a more just world. And that is not a hyperbole. Ohio can and should be a “Be a leader in this issue. It’s about not just African Americans, but all Americans as well. Simply put, black history is American history.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice held a last-minute virtual press conference after Biden on Thursday to declare Juneteenth an official state holiday. New Jersey passed a June tenth holiday in September.
Minnesota has recognized the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth since 1996, but the statute obliges the governor only to issue a proclamation each year in honor of compliance. This is a common situation in the US
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has called for it to be an official state holiday. The idea has so far not gained traction in Minnesota’s legislature, the only one in the state where Democrats control one chamber and Republicans control the other.
Members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus are now drafting legislation under the new federal law.