The Illinois legislature just created a new state commemorative holiday to celebrate the birthday of “favorite son” Barack Obama.
This week, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill to honor the 44th president’s August 4 birthday. It won’t be a paid holiday for state employees, but Rauner signed the bill saying he hoped the recognition would “bridges across communities,” Fox News reported.
Senate Bill 55 says the day will be “observed throughout the State as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the People of Illinois in both the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, and dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities.”
There was absolutely no resistance to the bill, even from Republicans, in the state legislature in Springfield, Illinois. Several lawmakers abstained from voting to implement the new holiday, but none voted against it.
Gov. Rauner, though, did oppose an earlier version of the bill that made Obama’s birthday a paid holiday. In opposition to the idea of giving employees a paid day off, Rauner said, “I don’t think it should be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off, but I think it should be a day of acknowledgment and celebration.”
The state of Illinois has the worst budget and pension crisis in the nation and many of the state’s vendors haven’t been paid for years.
Barack Obama took up permanent residence in Illinois in 1995 and lived there until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, after which he moved to Washington and rarely returned to the state that gave him his political start. He lived in Illinois for about ten years full time.
Two other presidents made Illinois their home: Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. Unlike Barack Obama, who only used Illinois as a political stepping stone, Ronald Reagan was born in the state and spent the first 21 years of his life there.
The deeply Democratic state never made Ronald Reagan’s birthday an official holiday, and this lapse is one reason some lawmakers balked at making Barack Obama’s birthday a paid state holiday.
Born in Kentucky, but spending most of his life in Illinois, Abe Lincoln’s birthday has been a paid state holiday for many years.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.