Bill would make Juneteenth a holiday in Minnesota

While Minnesota has symbolically recognized Juneteenth in the past, a bill authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would cement it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

Amelia Hamlin, 9, raises her fist during a Juneteenth rally outside Duluth City Hall on June 19, 2020. Minnesota legislators are considering a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday.
Tyler Schank / File / Duluth News Tribune
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation to designate Juneteenth, the celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, as a state holiday.

Juneteenth has been recognized as a federal holiday since 2021, but less than half of the states have moved to do the same. While Minnesota has symbolically recognized Juneteenth in the past, a bill authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would cement it as an official paid holiday for state employees.

During a Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing Thursday, Jan. 12, Champion said recognizing Juneteenth is a step toward the U.S. recognizing its foundational promises.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, of Minneapolis, addresses reporters Nov. 10 after being chosen by the Senate DFL Caucus to serve as the next president of the Minnesota Senate.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

“Great nations do not ignore the most painful moments — they face them,” said Champion, who this year became Minnesota’s first Black president of the Senate. “We grow stronger as a country and state when we honestly confront our past injustices, including the profound suffering and injustice wrought by slavery and generations of segregation and discrimination against Black Americans.”

Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, will lead what the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party says is the "most diverse Senate caucus in Minnesota history" when the party takes complete control over state government at the beginning of 2023.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced that a quarter-million slaves in the state were free. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years before, but Texas was among the last Confederate territories to be brought under control by federal forces.


Texas has observed Juneteenth since 1980, though in recent years the holiday has become more prominent nationally. The federal government and several states moved to establish the holiday following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, which sparked a national reckoning on race and policing.

President Joe Biden signed a bill to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, the first year the holiday was officially observed nationally in the U.S.

All states and the District of Columbia have commemorated or recognized Juneteenth, according to the Congressional Research Service, though fewer than half recognize it as a holiday. Eighteen states observed Juneteenth as a paid holiday as of mid-2022.

During Thursday’s hearing on the bill, Sen. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, pressed Champion on the fiscal impact of creating the holiday. Senate fiscal analyst Andrew Erickson said the state already includes the holiday in employee contracts and further added that employees are already being paid, so the creation of a holiday wouldn’t result in an added cost.

On a voice vote Thursday, the Senate State and Local Government committee forwarded the Juneteenth bill to the Education Policy Committee. Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, is the main author of a companion Juneteenth bill in the House.

Attorney General Keith Ellison says he’s been asking the Legislature for years to give him more funding for the criminal division of his office.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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