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Obama’s home state rejects bill that would have made his birthday a holiday

The Illinois state Legislature failed Tuesday to pass a bill that would have made former President Barack Obama’s birthday, Aug. 4, a statewide holiday.\nThe bill would have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million, according to the Illinois budget office.\n (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Illinois lawmakers failed this week to rally enough votes to pass a measure in the state legislature that would have made former President Barack Obama’s birthday a statewide holiday.

The bill would have observed Aug. 4, Obama’s birthday, as a legal holiday in the Land of Lincoln. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, the legislation received 54 votes — six votes shy of what it needed to send the bill to the Illinois Senate, where Obama once served as a senator.

Here’s the main text of the bill:

The fourth day of August of each year shall be a legal holiday to be known as Barack Obama's Birthday to be observed as a day on which to hold appropriate exercises in commemoration of our illustrious President. When August fourth shall fall on a Sunday, the following Monday shall be held and considered the holiday.

Chicago Rep. Sonya Harper, a Democrat, first introduced the legislation on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

“President Barack Obama, he did great work for the state of Illinois and our country, and I believe we need to do our part in preserving that history,” she said.

Opponents of the bill have raised concerns about the economic impact such a holiday would have on the state, and Republicans have noted the “inconsistent way” in which presidents from Illinois are recognized.

The bill would cost taxpayers nearly $20 million, according to Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget office. The legislation would cost roughly $3.2 million in personnel expenses to state employees for holiday pay and the state would lose around $16 million in productivity from state workers benefiting from a paid non-working holiday.

State Rep. Tom Hemmer, a Republican, said he believes it’s “totally appropriate to recognize people from the state of Illinois who have risen to positions of global influence,” but pointed to the fact that former President Ronald Reagan, who was born in Tampico, Illinois, does not have a state holiday in his honor.

“I represent ... the hometown of President Ronald Reagan,” he said. “President Reagan is the only president who was born in the state of Illinois, the only president who went to grade school and high school and college in the state of Illinois, the only president to spend his formative years among the people of the great state of Illinois, but we don’t have a holiday for President Reagan.”

Harper said she is open to a bill to name a holiday in honor of Reagan.

Hemmer, however, said he would be willing to co-sponsor Harper’s bill to honor Obama’s legacy — and a bill to honor Reagan’s, for that matter — if it was a “designation and didn’t come with a huge financial impact.”

If the measure changed from a state holiday to a more informal day of recognition, public offices could remain open, eliminating the costs that a formal holiday would incur.

One last thing…
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