Juneteenth holiday bill was never filed during 2021 legislative session

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - June 19 is the Juneteenth holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

It has been celebrated for years, but awareness of Juneteenth has grown since last summer’s social justice movement across the nation.

It was at the height of the protests when Governor Beshear urged the passage of, and Kentucky senators on both sides said they would pass, a bill to make it an officially recognized state holiday.

Senators Robert Stivers, Damon Thayer, and Morgan Mcgarvey said they would back a bill this year making Juneteenth a state holiday, but, according to the Legislative Research Commission, no bill was ever filed.

“I think a lot was going on in the last session, including Covid when it hit, but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” said Gov. Beshear.

House Democratic Leader Derrick Graham feels the same way.

“I’m disappointed obviously,” Rep. Graham said. “I’m very disappointed.”

“We were working on so many big issues, and under the limited circumstances we had in a short period of time, it probably slipped to through the cracks, but I apologize for that not getting through,” said Sen. Stivers.

Senator Thayer says lawmakers were not focused on ceremonial-type bills this year. But, that doesn’t mean a Juneteenth state holiday is off the table.

“What doesn’t happen in one legislative year, it can take place the following year,” Sen. Thayer said.

Lawmakers feel it’s important for Kentucky to commemorate Juneteenth, the day that signifies the end of slavery in the US.

“It’s important for us as a commonwealth to say this was wrong,” Rep. Graham said.

Beshear: “Juneteenth is an important part of our history if we’re truly going to be a country for everyone,” Gov. Beshear said.

“I think we have to recognize things in the past so people don’t create problems and forget,” said Sen. Stivers.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed an act that named June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

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