A proposal to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for California state workers has passed the Assembly and moved to the Senate.

The measure, introduced earlier this year by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would make June 19 a paid holiday starting next year for civil service employees along with those who work for California State University and California Community Colleges.

If approved by the Senate and Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Bill 1655 would create the 12th paid holiday for state employees and the first new one since Cesar Chavez Day in 2000.

Juneteenth observes June 19, 1865, the day that slaves in Texas learned they had been freed.

“Juneteenth was the first major step of many in the fight for freedom and equality for Black Americans” that “not only celebrates the ending of slavery, but also serves as an annual reminder that we can only overcome our history if we make a conscious effort to learn about it,” according to comments Jones-Sawyer submitted in support of the bill.

The new holiday would cost the state of California $10 million to $20 million per year in overtime and premium pay to employees who have to work holidays, such as prison personnel, according to an Assembly Appropriations Committee report that cites estimates from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Along with direct costs, a new state holiday would add “cost pressures of approximately $70 million in lost productivity,” according to the committee’s analysis.

President Biden signed a bill in 2021 making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Another paid state worker holiday has also been proposed. Assembly Bill 1801, introduced by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys, would designate April 24 as Genocide Awareness Day.

That proposal cleared the Assembly late last month.

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