On Friday, former President Barack Obama was given his own holiday by the state government of Illinois.
Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that designates August 4th as “Barack Obama Day” across the state, beginning next year.
According to Senate Bill 55, the holiday “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.”
While several lawmakers abstained from voting on the measure, it passed both houses earlier this year without a single vote against.
SB 55 was introduced by Sen. Emil Jones III, the son of former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., who played a major role in launching then-state Senator Obama to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and considers himself to be the former president’s political “godfather.”
“Barack Obama Day” joins other commemorative holidays like Adlai Stevenson Day, Ronald Reagan Day and Jane Addams Day, for which workplaces do not close.
Democrats’ efforts to make Obama’s birthday a legal state holiday – during which schools and state offices would close, while banks and businesses could, but would not be required to close – stalled after some lawmakers voiced concern that other Illinois presidents, like Reagan, do not have similar holidays.
Republicans, including Rauner, also noted the economic cost of closing state buildings on the holiday, and the impact of workers having the day off.
“It’s incredibly proud for Illinois that the president came from Illinois. I think it’s awesome, and I think we should celebrate it,”
Rauner told reporters in February. “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.”
Legislators also voted in July to rename part of a Chicago-area highway after their former colleague, designating the stretch of Interstate 55 from the Tri-State Tollway south to mile marker 202 near Pontiac as the “Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.”
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