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Juneteenth designated as state holiday for fourth year

Although not legally considered an official state holiday, state employees will observe Juneteenth this year.

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Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated to commemorate the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, will be recognized as a holiday for Alabama state employees this year, according to a memo from Gov. Kay Ivey sent to state department heads on Monday afternoon. 

“All state offices will be closed on the above dates, except those in areas where it is essential to maintain personnel. If it is necessary for any employee to work on any of these holidays, they should be allowed time off as soon thereafter as possible,” Ivey stated in the memo. 

While President Joe Biden established Juneteenth as an official federal holiday in 2021, states do not have to comply with federal holidays, and Alabama did not observe it as an official state holiday. 

Similarly, states recognize state holidays specific to the state’s history. In Alabama, state offices were closed on April 22 to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. We also observe a state holiday on June 3rd to celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, and Robert E. Lee’s birthday is observed concurrently with Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Alabama. 

Efforts during this past legislative session attempted to add Juneteenth as an official state holiday. HB4, sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, would not close state offices on Juneteenth and would no longer close state offices on Jefferson Davis’ birthday but would instead present employees with the option to observe one or the other as a state holiday. 

The bill passed in the Alabama House of Representatives but did not make it to a vote in the Alabama Senate. It followed previous legislation in 2023, when Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, proposed a bill that aimed to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday without affecting other holidays. This bill, HB97, was referred to a subcomittee where it died. 

This will be the fourth year that Gov. Ivey has designated Juneteenth as a state holiday without adding it as a permanent state holiday.

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Mary Claire is a reporting intern.

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