California bill aims to add Juneteenth as paid holiday

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGTV) — While Juneteenth celebrations took place over the weekend, some states like California do not recognize the federal holiday on Monday, as a state-paid holiday.

However, there is a bill that is trying to change that.

Across the United States, only 18 states currently acknowledge Juneteenth as a paid day off holiday.

“It really is a day of reflection,” shares Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. “It’s a day of looking at all that African Americans have gone through.”

Jones-Sawyer is hoping to add California to that growing list. He has introduced Assembly Bill 1655 to the California legislature, which if passed, would allow state employees to select June 19 as one of their 11 paid holidays.

“We need to remember Juneteenth so that people understand why we need to continue to fight, to reverse this river of racism that has been permeating through the Black community from 1865 until now,” says Jones-Sawyer.

Last year, President Biden acknowledged Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The day commemorates the end of slavery in America. Some local municipalities, like San Diego County do recognize the holiday.

Yet 32 states including California do not recognize the day.

According to ABC, critics believe passing this bill would be wildly expensive and that the holiday is not wildly celebrated. Yet, according to a Gallup poll, it found more Americans are familiar with Juneteenth.

Six out of 10 Americans knew a lot or some about the holiday, compared to 37% the previous year.

“The reason Juneteenth is really important for all Americans, I think is to show how strong and resilient we are as Americans. And then, most important, what African Americans go through,” explains Jones-Sawyer. “And as you relive and retell those stories I think it’s important for all Americans to understand that their strength.”

Currently, the assembly bill is in the Senate. It will need to move out of committee hearings in the next few days, then to the Senate floor, then the governor’s hands to hopefully be approved and enacted next year.

“The work is not done,” shares Jones-Sawyer. “And we all need to come together as a community, to move forward.”

Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer says that if this bill passes, the next step would be discussions on how to properly celebrate the holiday.

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