June 19 is still not a public holiday in Ky., despite promises from lawmakers

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) — Two years ago, Kentucky lawmakers promised to make June 19 a holiday, but that still hasn’t happened.

In 2020, following the Black Lives Matter protests, Senate leaders sent out a press release saying they would support the legislation. Senate President Robert Stivers reportedly said:

“As the birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln, it is fitting that Kentucky recognize the day his Emancipation Proclamation reached the last corner of the former Confederate States and freed the last of the southern slaves.”

But according to the Legislative Research Commission, no Juneteenth bill was ever introduced in 2021. Last year, we asked Stivers what happened, and here’s his response:

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

During this year’s General Assembly, Representative James Brown introduced House Bill 133 and Senator Gerald Neal introduced Senate Bill 318 to make June 16 a statutory holiday. The House passed HB 133. But HB 133 and SB 318 never made it out of the Senate Committee on State and Local Government.

We reached out to Stivers again, and his spokeswoman Angela Billings told us that Stivers was unavailable for an interview, and she said he didn’t feel compelled to comment.

Some people say not making Juneteenth a public holiday sends the wrong message to the community.

“First of all, if you’re not a slavery supporter, then you should be prepared to stand up and support this party,” said Lexington NAACP President Whit Whitaker.

On Wednesday morning, we asked Governor Andy Beshear to share his thoughts.

“I don’t know the reasons why it stalled. I know that we recognize this every year within the executive branch through proclamations. I’m going to be at a Juneteenth in Frankfort,” Governor Beshear said.

Senator Neal said passing a June 19 bill was part of a complex legislative process.

“If you don’t get the green light or someone rejects him in those roles, then he’s not getting the attention or the priority that I think he needs,” Senator Neal said.

Senator Neal said he plans to speak to Senator Stivers and will continue to push for a June 19 holiday.

We also contacted Senator Robby Mills, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and State Government, to see why the June 19 bills did not pass this year. We are waiting for an answer.

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