A bill that would make Native American Day a paid judicial holiday and remove Columbus Day as a paid holiday was passed 16-0 in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, sending the bill to a full Assembly Hearing.
Assembly Bill 855, authored by Assemblyman James Ramos (D-Highland), would specifically remove Native American Day, which is celebrated on the fourth Friday of September, from the list of holidays that are excluded from designation as a judicial holiday. This would mean that Native American Day would result in a paid holiday for state and local court employees. In return, Columbus Day, celebrated on the second Monday in October, would be placed on the excluded list of holidays.
As court workers are the last remaining state employees to currently receive Columbus Day off as a paid holiday, AB 855 would make holidays off uniform once again for all state employees in California.
Assemblyman Ramos wrote the bill primarily to honor Native Americans in California, as well as to recognize their contributions to state.
“For more than 20 years, I have worked to help create a day that recognizes the state’s first inhabitants and their history,” Ramos said earlier this year. “I applaud the Judicial Council for seeking to recognize the unique role of California Native Americans. Our state has the greatest number of Native Americans residing within its boundaries, and it is fitting that we begin to expand our commemoration of this holiday.”
“This is one more step forward in statewide recognition of the history, culture and contributions of California’s Native Americans,” added Ramos on Wednesday.
AB 855 has gained bipartisan support in California, with many lawmakers and judicial workers noting specifically that Native American day would help recognize past injustices to Native Americans in the state, with Columbus Day being removed because of his role in the murder and enslavement of native peoples over 500 years ago.
“The Judicial Council of California and its chair, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, are committed to providing equal access and fairness in our justice system,” explained the Chairwoman of the Judicial Council’s Legislation Committee, Marla O. Anderson, earlier this month. “By recognizing the importance of Native Americans we not only acknowledge our shortcomings in our state’s past treatment of them, we also celebrate their past and current contributions to our state.”
AB 855 passes with unanimous, bipartisan support
Others who are backing the bill also pointed out how the removal of Columbus Day as a state and federally recognized holiday is currently going through a transitionary process due to new information and a better understanding of Columbus since the holiday was first federally recognized in 1937.
“While Columbus did help begin European colonization of the Americas, new information and societal changes have really gone against an entire day celebrating him,” explained Sam Locke, who helps coordinate fundraisers for Native American Day and Indigenous Peoples Day efforts across the United States, to the Globe. “His main achievement, discovering America, has been all but thrown out of schools not only due to Native Americans being here the entire time, but also because of Vikings discovering the Americas hundreds of years before him. It’s still being taught that he came here and his explorations of the Caribbean. It’s not being removed from history or anything like that. There just isn’t a holiday about it now.
“Basically, right now, it’s being kept up for Italian-American heritage at this point, but even that is being more downplayed. The trend right now is that we were wrong to have made it a federal holiday in the 1930’s and are right now transitioning it out. This Californian bill is just another example of how it is being replaced as a holiday.”
There has been little opposition to the bill, with AB 855 passing both Assembly committees unanimously with bipartisan support.
“In the past, we saw a lot of opposition to Columbus Day being removed from anything,” noted “Dana”, a state Capitol Building worker. “Nowadays, people have rethought about the day and what it really means so much that now, when we are switching it out as a holiday, you don’t even have one vote against it. We’re a changing nation and a changing state.”
Both Columbus Day and Native American Day would continue to both be recognized by the state as holidays, but with neither holiday giving state employees a paid day off or public schools a day off.
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