Official State Holidays Could be Removed from the Calendar
Shh! Don’t tell anybody. We don’t want to jinx it. But there has been a rare sighting of bipartisanship in the state legislature this session. You remember bipartisanship don’t’ you? That elusive practice went out of style “a long time ago in a galaxy far away. Like Jedis and The Force? Well, it resurfaced in the House Judiciary Committee last week.
The Committee was hearing Rep. Matthew Willard’s bill, HB248 on Wednesday. The bill strikes two little known holidays from the state’s recognized list. The first is Robert E. Lee Day, January 19th. And the second is Confederate Memorial Day, June 3rd. Both holidays are meant to honor soldiers who fought for once wildly popular notions like slavery and seceding from the United States of America.
If you didn’t know those two holidays were on the books, then join the party. Neither did Rep. Willard. “I had a constituent tell me about the two holidays,” Willard said. “But I found it hard to believe. Then I looked into it.” Once he did, Willard came to a simple conclusion. “I couldn’t in good conscience let this continue.”
Removing Confederate Holidays
Considering the present political climate, one would’ve expected this bill to be given the red meat treatment, as if it were a facet of Critical Race Theory, or worse — an attempt to create an additional black congressional district. But all it took was about 5 minutes for all 15 members of the Committee to pass the bill onto the House floor. And just like that, POOF! Bipartisanship. No light sabers or Jedi mind tricks were necessary.
“I was shocked,” Willard said. 9 of the 15 Committee members are Republicans. The other 6 members are Democrats and an Independent. Now out of committee, the bill moves on for full consideration. “We’ll see what happens on the House floor,” Willard said, “but I feel confident.”
The bill comes about during a transitional time. The city has already taken down the Robert E. Lee statue and 3 other Confederate monuments. Jefferson Davis Pkwy is now Norman C. Francis Pkwy. Robert E. Lee Blvd has been renamed Allen Toussaint Blvd. The Orleans Parish School Board went on a massive renaming of most of its public school buildings that honored Confederates. And just last week, the City Council voted to change the name of Lee Circle to Harmony Circle.
“This is just the first step,” Willard said, speaking of his bill. As mentioned, fro.m here it goes to the House floor and then onto the Senate.
Related: City is Changing Racist School Names
“Now the Senate will be a different animal,” Willard admits. There are only 39 state Senators in Louisiana. That makes their votes much more significant and high profile. And all it takes is possibly one Senator to hunker down on principle and stall a bill. Whether that happens or not may depend on how big of a majority the bill passes through the House, if at all.
“But right now,” Willard said, “I’m just happy. I’m excited, and I’m proud.”
By the end of this legislative session, we’ll see if the full House and Senate will follow that sentiment and move the state in the positive direction many of us hope to see.