NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A bill to make Juneteenth a legal holiday in Tennessee is one step closer to becoming law after clearing a Senate committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 269 by Senate Leader Jack Johnson (R—Franklin) would add Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19 each year, as another legal holiday in the Volunteer State. Currently, Juneteenth is recognized as a special observance, which means state employees are still required to work on that day. Making Juneteenth a legal holiday would grant the day as a paid day off, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day or Christmas Day.
The measure is one of the governor’s initiatives, according to his spokesperson Jade Byers.
“The Governor believes it’s appropriate to commemorate Juneteenth with a state holiday, both to recognize an important day for freedom in America as we move toward a more perfect union and to be consistent with the federal calendar,” she told News 2 in a statement.
The governor also pushed for the day to be a holiday last year, Byers added. That bill made it through the Senate committee process before being “taken off notice” in the House, effectively killing it for the last legislative session. The Senate version did not make it to the Senate floor.
Only Lebanon Republican Mark Pody voted against the bill. He issued the following comment on his vote:
“In Tennessee, our official holidays should be directly related to Tennesseans. Slavery was an evil part of American history. Thank God that in Tennessee slavery was ended months before it was ended in Texas on June 19, 1865. In Fact, Tennesseans officially abolished slavery in the state with an amendment to the State’s constitution on February 22, 1865.”
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This year’s bill now moves onto the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means committee. The House version of the bill has not seen movement since late January.
Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.
You can also find daily coverage from the session here.