While Barack Obama lives it up in the sun in his post-POTUS life, some Illinois state lawmakers are trying to honor the work he did while in office with a special designation: make Obama’s birthday a state holiday in Illinois. Schools and state offices would close, while banks and businesses can, but are not required to close.
Obama’s birthday, Aug. 4, would become the state’s 13th official day off, and only its second state-specific day of rest, alongside Lincoln’s birthday, if Democratic state Reps. Andre Thapedi and Sonya Harper get their way. If Aug. 4 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday would be observed on the following Monday.
Those who oppose the bill argue, if state workers get the day off, it could cost more than $3 million a year. If passed, it would be Illinois’ first holiday in 40 years , if Democratic state Reps. Andre Thapedi and Sonya Harper get their way.
Thapedi, who pushed for a similar measure last year while Obama was still in office, acknowledged he’s “ticked off some folks” with his idea and that his Obama Day bill was “by no means a top priority until we resolve this budget crisis” in Springfield.
Thapedi noted that California instituted a state holiday for Ronald Reagan while Reagan was still alive, though that day does not mark a state shutdown. Obama, he continued, is “an adopted son of the state, a Nobel Prize winner, a two-term president and the first African-American president” and “kids are out of school in August, anyway, so it won’t cause any problems there.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office said Wednesday only that it would carefully review any legislation that reaches the governor’s desk, but Thapedi said his push for the holiday last year was stymied by what he described as the governor’s office’s unreasonable estimates of an “astronomical cost of lost productivity” if Obama’s birthday was honored.
State Rep. Sonya Harper has introduced a bill that copies Thapedi’s bill word for word.
She said she believed Obama was one of the greatest presidents of her lifetime and should be afforded the full honor of a state holiday. Harper said she was unaware of any similarities ot Thapedi’s bill and said she suspected they were both written by the same staffer at the Legislative Reference Bureau, which helps draft legislation for lawmakers. She said the bills will be combined in the committee review process or one will move forward.
Official state holidays in Illinois include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the day after, and Christmas.
Before becoming president, Obama served as an Illinois senator from 1997-2004, then became a U.S. senator from 2005-2008. If any of these bills become law, it would be the first time a living president in Illinois would have a state holiday dedicated to them.