Democratic lawmakers in Illinois hope to honor former President Barack Obama by making his birthday, Aug 4, a state holiday.
Illinois, which was the first state in the country to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1973, could once again spark a nationwide trend. If passed, the bill would create the state’s first new holiday in nearly 40 years.
According to ABC7 Chicago, three bills have been introduced including two bills in the House proposed by Democratic Reps. Andre Thapedi and Sonya Harper. Both of their bills would make his date of birth a “legal holiday,” which would shut down state government office while schools and businesses would have the option to close.
Although two of the bills are identical, Harper said that they should be combined in the committee review process or else just one will move forward.
Democratic Senator Jacqueline Collins, whose interest is to make the holiday commemorative, introduced the third bill. Essentially, this means that the government, schools and businesses would not be closed and would simply serve as an honorable recognition of the nation’s 44th President.
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Now that Obama is out of the Oval Office, which he departed with one of the highest approval ratings of any U.S. President with 60 percent, Thapedi says the bill has a better chance at moving forward.
“This bill is even stronger this year now that Obama is no longer in the White House,” Thapedi said.
“Last year, there were some concerns, honoring a sitting president. Now that he’s no longer a sitting President, it’s even more appropriate,” he continued.
Those against the legislation, which has included Republican Governor Bruce Raumer, argue that the holiday would cost the state $3.2 million in salary for workers to enjoy a paid day off.
He also added that there was a concern for loss of productivity for the state and that there’s potential to “lose $16 million from state workers having a paid, non-working holiday.”
As Republicans continue to pushback many policies from the former administration, Thapedi is hopeful that “we don’t descend to what we see at the federal level.”
“As a Democrat, I have no problem honoring President Lincoln. There should be reciprocity between parties, Obama belongs to Illinois, and Illinois belongs to all people, Republicans and Democrats,” he said.