Legislators in the state of Illinois want former President Barack Obama’s birthday to be a holiday.
Two bills being reviewed in the Illinois House would make Aug. 4, Obama’s birthday, a legal holiday, meaning state offices and schools would close the Monday after that date, according to DNAinfo. Businesses would have the right to decide if they will close for the holiday.
In the Illinois Senate, a bill would make Obama’s birthday a commemorative day wherein no offices would close.
If the House bill passes, it will be the first time in 40 years that Illinois has created a new state holiday, and the first time a living president was ever honored with a legal holiday in the state.
Democratic state Rep. Andre Thapedi thinks that Illinois should honor Obama because he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and part of Illinois history. It would also follow suit with other states; Texas honors Lyndon B. Johnson and California honors Ronald Reagan.
“I thought those distinctions meant he should be honored — he’s basically an Illinoisan,” Thapedi said.
Thapedi submitted a similar bill in 2016 but it did not move forward because Obama was still in office and the cost of closing state offices was estimated to be $3.2 million. He believes the current bill has a better chance now that Obama is out of office and the costs of closing state offices are being reassessed.
“Recognizing fiscal constraints we’re under now, it would not be unreasonable to take those things into consideration,” Thapedi said.
Democratic state Rep. Sonya Harper also submitted a bill requesting the legal holiday. She believes Obama is one of the greatest presidents of her lifetime and that he should be given the honor.
Thapedi and Harper’s bills may be combined in the committee review process; if not, one will be chosen to move forward.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has not commented on whether he would support a holiday in honor of Obama.
A holiday was previously named in Obama’s honor — Kenya declared a national holiday to honor his election in 2008, according to The Telegraph.
Obama’s father was Kenyan, and while the country acknowledged the president is an American, his victory was seen as a sign of hope that his proposed calls for change would be felt in Africa, specifically with trade policy and tariffs.
Sources: DNAinfo, The Telegraph / Photo credit: Kevin Burkett/Flickr