Governor Polis Signs Historic Juneteenth Holiday Bill Into Law, Signs Bills to Create Safer and Healthier Communities

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

DENVER — Yesterday, Governor Jared Polis signed legislation officially recognizing Juneteenth as Colorado’s 11th state holiday. The Governor was joined by bill sponsors Rep. Leslie Herod, Sen. James Coleman, Sen. Janet Buckner, members of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado, President of Colorado WINS Skip Miller, President of Juneteenth Music Festival Norman Harris, Cleo Parker Robinson, and community members.

Juneteenth was recognized as a national holiday last year by Congress and President Joe Biden. Legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday in Colorado was first introduced this February and passed the legislature with bipartisan support. 

For more than 200 years, Black Coloradans and Americans have celebrated Juneteenth, not only as an end to slavery, but also as a day that represents freedom, hope and joy. It’s about time we officially recognize Juneteenth in Colorado law,” said Governor Polis. “Thank you to our sponsors that have championed this bill and thank you to the team at Colorado WINS for ensuring that this bill made its way to my desk. Our state’s diversity is our greatest power, and with today’s signing we take another step toward building a Colorado for all.” 

Governor Polis signed this bill into law at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance where he signed the historic CROWN Act into law two years ago.

“Juneteenth has been celebrated by the Black community for generations, and beginning today, this statewide holiday will receive all formal recognition, celebration and reflection it deserves,” said Chairwoman of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “This Emancipation Day reminds us of the atrocities our ancestors endured and how we must never give up hope in uncertain times. Juneteenth uplifts the voices of the Black community and showcases the perseverance of past and present generations – I’m proud to call it Colorado's 11th state holiday.”

“It’s long past time to make Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery and honors freedom for all of us, a Colorado state holiday,” said Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora. “I am proud to champion this important legislation which will help educate all Coloradans about the horrors of slavery, make space to celebrate the Black community, and lift up our ongoing work to make sure we don’t forget our past.”

“Juneteenth is more than just a federal holiday we recognize in historical Black communities like Five Points where we march, eat good food and listen to good music,” said Sen. James Coleman, D-Denver. “Making Juneteenth a state holiday means Colorado would not only recognize that Black people are free, but that all people are free. It is a recognition that we not only desire for some Coloradans to prosper, but for all to prosper, and for all Coloradans, regardless of race or background, to earn a living wage, have an affordable place to call home, and get the equitable access to health care and education people need to move forward and thrive.” 

“This is a critical part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and movement to increase equality in state agencies. We thank bill sponsors for seeing Juneteenth legislation over the finish line and Governor Polis for signing it into law, making Juneteenth an official state holiday in Colorado,” said Skip Miller, President of Colorado WINS. “When working people come together with elected officials, we can win a Colorado where all of us can thrive.”

“This milestone is an important step toward the foundation of equal rights in our country and we are proud of our state for being on the forefront of this legislation just as we have been in recognition of Juneteenth for over five decades,” said Norman Harris, President of Juneteenth Music Festival LLC. “We can now focus on building a legacy of acceptance, empathy, and equality for all. Whether here in Five Points at our annual celebration, up north in Fort Collins, or south in Colorado Springs, we look forward to wishing everyone a Happy Juneteenth this year.” 

Governor Polis also signed the following bills on Monday:

  • SB22-116 Increase Occupational Credential Portability - Representatives K. Van Winkle | S. Bird, Senators C. Holbert | B. Pettersen

  • SB22-010 Pretrial Diversion For Person With Behavioral Health - Representatives A. Benavidez | J. Amabile, Senators C. Simpson | P. Lee

  • HB22-1288 Safe Reporting Assaults Suffered By Sex Workers - Representatives B. Titone | M. Soper, Senators J. Smallwood | R. Fields

  • SB22-100 Continue Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board - Representatives M. Duran | D. Esgar, Senators F. Winter | B. Gardner

  • SB22-167  Affirm Greyhounds As Companion Pets - Representative M. Duran, Senator J. Ginal

  • HB22-1025 Repeal Of Infrequently Used Tax Expenditures - Representative A. Benavidez, Senator C. Kolker