Gov. Bruce Rauner told reporters Thursday that Illinois should have a state holiday honoring President Barack Obama’s birthday, but he doesn’t think people should get the day off work to celebrate.
"It's incredibly proud for Illinois that the president came from Illinois. I think it's awesome, and I think we should celebrate it," Rauner told reporters Thursday. "I don't think it should be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off, but I think it should be a day of acknowledgment and celebration."
Last month, lawmakers introduced three bills aimed at commemorating Obama’s birthday.
Two identical bills, introduced in the House by Democratic state Reps. Andre Thapedi and Sonya Harper, would designate Aug. 4 as “Barack Obama’s Birthday,” a new legal holiday that would close schools and state offices. Under the plan, banks and businesses could close, but would not be required to. If Obama’s birthday should fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday would be observed on the following Monday.
A separate bill introduced in the Senate, where Obama once served, would designate the former president's birthday as “Barack Obama Day,” but wouldn’t require offices to close. The measure was introduced by state Sen. Emil Jones III, the son of former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., who played a major role in shepherding Obama to the U.S. Senate and considers himself the former president’s political “godfather.”
But the General Assembly's recent adulation for Obama doesn’t stop with his birthday. A pair of recent proposals also look to rename local highways after the former president.
A House resolution, sponsored by Rep. Robert Martwick, would rename the entirety of Interstate 294 as "President Barack Obama Tollway." The measure was assigned to the Tollway Oversight Committee Wednesday. That same day, State Rep. La Shawn Ford announced that he’s drafting legislation to change the majority of Interstate 55 to the "Barack Obama Expressway."
“We can imagine that then state Senator Obama made may trips between Springfield and Chicago on Interstate 55, so it is very fitting that we rename Interstate 55 as the Barack Obama Expressway,” Ford said.