Juneteenth still not a holiday in Ky., despite promises from lawmakers

Juneteenth still not a state holiday, two years after promises
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Two years ago, Kentucky lawmakers promised to make Juneteenth a state holiday, but it still has not happened.

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

“As the birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln, it is only right that Kentucky recognizes the day that his Emancipation Proclamation reached the final 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 filed in 2021. Last year we asked Stivers what happened, and this was his response:

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

During this year’s General assembly, Representative James Brown filed House Bill 133 and Senator Gerald Neal filed Senate Bill 318 to make Juneteenth a state 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 Stivers was not available for an interview, and she said he did not feel compelled to comment.

Some people say not making Juneteenth a state holiday is sending the wrong message to the community.

“First of all, if you are not a proponent of slavery, then you should be willing to stand up and support this holiday,” said Whit Whitaker, the Lexington NAACP president.

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

“I don’t know the reasons that it stalled. I know we recognize it in the Executive Branch each year with proclamations. I’m going to be at a Juneteenth in Frankfort,” Gov. Beshear said.

Senator Neal said getting a Juneteenth bill passed is a part of a complex legislative process.

“If you don’t get a go-ahead or someone dismisses it in those rolls, then it’s not given the attention or the priority that I think it needs,” Senator Neal said.

Senator Neal said he plans to speak with Senator Stivers and will keep pushing for a Juneteenth state holiday.

We also reached out to Senator Robby Mills, chair of the Senate committee on local and state government, to see why the Juneteenth bills were not passed this year. We are waiting to hear back.

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