Why Juneteenth isn’t a full California state holiday

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La June 20, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Southern California Gas Company and Earthjustice

Why Juneteenth isn’t a full California state holiday

In 2021, President Biden recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday and the state of California followed suit last year. But many state workers were on the job Monday, and the Legislature was in session.

So what gives?

The answer, in short, is that Juneteenth is not one of the 11 paid holidays that all state workers have off in California, despite many pronouncements and measures from state officials acknowledging the day’s significance.

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Los Angeles Democrat, last year authored a bill that established Juneteenth — a day that celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. — as a state holiday. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure into law in September 2022 and Monday marked the first time it went into effect:

  • Newsom, in a statement: “This year, California is recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday for the first time. Because even as Juneteenth exposes our worst demons, it represents our better angels, those who persisted and those who fought for true freedom even in the face of unimaginable injustice and despair.”

The Assembly on Monday also passed a resolution (written by Jones-Sawyer as well) to recognize the holiday as “a day to honor and reflect on the significant role that African Americans have played in the history of the United States.”

In 28 other states, government offices are closed and all state workers have paid time off. In California, by contrast, eligible state workers can take Juneteenth off as one of four days they can designate as their personal holiday. 

If they don’t, they’re still expected to work.

Some labor organizations and lawmakers want to change that. SEIU Local 1000, the biggest union for California state workers, is including a proposal to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday in its contract negotiations. 

And in the Legislature, state Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Inglewood, said during Monday’s floor session that legislators should advocate for Juneteenth to be a state holiday that “everyone has off.”

  • Bradford: “I would challenge someone, a member of this body, to introduce that measure next year…. Because, again, African Americans had 250-plus years of no days off.”

Perhaps more consequential than whether workers will get Juneteenth off, however, is how the Legislature will vote on reparations. With a July 1 deadline looming, final recommendations from the state-appointed California Reparations Task Force are due any day now. Depending on what measures legislators choose to adopt from the task force’s report, the state could distribute millions of dollars to eligible Black residents and enact policy changes to address racial inequities.

Reparations calculator: CalMatters has created an interactive tool to estimate how much someone might be owed in reparations for slavery and racism. Look it up here, watch a TikTok about it, see it on Instagram and read the full story from Wendy Fry of CalMatters’ California Divide team.

If you have questions on reparations, send an email to Wendy at wendy@calmatters.org.

Speaking of President Biden: The president joined Gov. Newsom in Palo Alto on Monday to announce $600 million in federal grants that will go toward projects related to mitigating damages caused by climate change. The state will also receive $67 million from the federal government to help build power lines and transmission infrastructure.

During the event, Newsom praised Biden and said he has “done more to deliver on the promise of addressing, head-on, the issue of climate change” than other presidents in modern American history. Seeking reelection, Biden also hopes to drum up support and money for his campaign, scheduling two fundraising events this week during his time in California, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Coincidentally, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis was also in Northern California to raise cash as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination to take on Biden in 2024. Desantis attended a private fundraising event in Sacramento on Monday and released a campaign video that took aim at California and Newsom, specifically — calling out the state’s homelessness crisis, crime rates and business exodus.


CalMatters covers the Capitol: CalMatters has guides to keep track of your lawmakers, explore its record diversity, make your voice heard, understand how state government works and follow the state budget process.   

CalMatters for Learning: From our engagement team: Lesson-plan-ready versions of our explainers on housing and homelessness, electric vehicles, wage theft, water and state government — all especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups, as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative.


1 California’s IT disaster isn’t over

Malia Cohen, candidate for state controller, gives an interview at CalMatters in Sacramento in April. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
State Controller Malia Cohen, then a candidate for the office, gives an interview at CalMatters in Sacramento in April 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

From CalMatters state Capitol reporter Sameea Kamal:

Policy nerds might notice the date on California’s most recent comprehensive financial report — 2021. 

It’s not a typo. Instead, it’s another consequence of the FI$Cal fiasco, an IT disaster that is costing millions and delaying critical information.

The project was launched in 2005 to bring the state’s budgeting and finance systems under one umbrella. Its scope was expanded in 2006 to combine accounting, budgeting, cash management and vendor contracts. Multiple departments that use FI$Cal have struggled to submit timely and accurate financial reports due to challenges reconciling financial accounts, the controller’s office said.

Despite ongoing problems, a bill passed last year deemed the project complete as of July 2022 for certain reporting purposes. That means the California Department of Technology, one of the agencies managing the transition, no longer has to report on some key markers of progress. 

And according to a Department of FI$Cal statement, “the system is working for California.” It also noted that it added 151 departments and 14,000 users since its launch, processing $421 billion in spending each year. 

  • Lisa Gray, information officer for the department: “The State Treasurer’s Office uses the FI$Cal system to process approximately $3.1 trillion in state government banking transactions annually and the Department of Finance uses the system to prepare the State Budget each year. Departments are paying their bills and balancing their budgets every day using the FI$Cal system.”

But in January 2022, the State Auditor’s office called out the problematic transition to FI$Cal for delaying “critical state financial reporting” for three years. The auditor noted that state bond agreements and federal funding require the reports, although some federal deadlines were extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Asked last week about the continued delay, the auditor’s office pointed to its same statement from 2022:

  • “The State’s ability to publish accurate and timely financial statements is important for the State to sustain the trust of financial markets and maintain a high credit rating. A high credit rating helps ensure access to low-interest debt. If the State suffers a downgraded credit rating, it could substantially increase borrowing costs, affecting the State’s ability to pay for debt-financed projects such as schools and levees.”

Reports have now been delayed for five years in a row. The 2021 report — the latest available — was published on March 23, 2023, a week before the deadline for the 2022 report. 

In her transmittal letter, Controller Malia Cohen says that “multiple departments have struggled to submit financial reports” to the controller’s office that are timely and accurate and to reconcile their FI$Cal accounting records.

But she says that efforts underway, in coordination with other state departments, will lead to “measurable advancements in improving timely financial reporting.”

2 Will CA offer more fruits and veggies?

Peaches and nectarines at the farmers' market in Fairfield on June 15, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters
Peaches and nectarines at the Fairfield Farmers’ Market on June 15, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters

A vital benefit for CalFresh recipients may be on the chopping block this month as the governor and Legislature continue their final budget negotiations, reports CalMatters’ politics and California Divide intern Rya Jetha. Known as Market Match, the program connects CalFresh participants with local farmers by doubling their benefits on fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

Last year, the program provided CalFresh shoppers with 38 million servings of fruits and vegetables and accounted for $19.5 million in spending at farmers markets across the state. A Stockton farmer Rya spoke to said about $50,000 — nearly a fourth of his income every season — comes from CalFresh customers and Market Match. And one CalFresh beneficiary told Rya that her family relies on Market Match to eat fresh produce regularly.

  • Mitzi Castillo, a Fairfield resident and mother of two: “We already spend $200 on meat and cheese at Costco. If I didn’t have Market Match, they would have to wait ’til next week to eat fruits and veggies when my husband gets paid.” 

When legislative Democrats approved their spending proposal on Thursday, they included $35 million for the California Nutrition Incentive Program, which funds Market Match. But there’s no guarantee that those dollars will make it to the final budget, in which case the program will have to return to relying on philanthropic fundraising. If that were to happen, Market Match could either be dramatically reduced or end altogether.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairperson and San Francisco Democrat Phil Ting authored the 2015 law that established the incentive program, and declined to comment about its current budget status. He told CalMatters that he is “worried” and is “fighting” to ensure that the program is part of the final budget.

3 A deep dive into homelessness

A man starts a fire while his wife sleeps inside their makeshift tent along a barbed wire fence near Highway 99 in southwest Fresno on Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters/CatchLight Local
A man starts a fire while his wife sleeps inside their makeshift tent in Fresno on Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters/CatchLight Local

Though most agree that California has a homelessness crisis, notions about what drives people to homelessness and what keeps people unhoused are often fiercely debated. Today, UC San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative released a report exploring the underlying causes and state of homelessness in California.

As CalMatters’ homelessness reporter Marisa Kendall explains, the team at UCSF says its study is one of the most comprehensive reports in the U.S. on homelessness since the mid-1990s: It surveyed 3,198 unhoused adults throughout the state between October 2021 and November 2022, and the team interviewed 365 of those participants in depth.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Income loss and unaffordable rent are the largest drivers of homelessness. In the six months before becoming homeless, those who were surveyed reported a median income of $960 and a large majority said a small stipend for rent ($300-$500 per month) would have kept them off the streets.
  • Most homeless people in California are from California: 90% of the people surveyed said they were last housed in California, and 75% live in the same county as where they lost their housing. 
  • Mental health issues, addiction and run-ins with the law are common occurrences in the lives of unhoused people. Two-thirds of people reported experiencing mental health symptoms in the past 30 days; about a third reported using drugs three or more times a week; and more than three-quarters reported being incarcerated at some point during their life.

The report comes at a time when local governments and Gov. Newsom continue to quarrel over who should pay up for tackling homelessness. In April, city officials rallied at the state Capitol to push for $3 billion a year in guaranteed homelessness funding from the state. Since taking office, the governor has allocated nearly $21 billion toward homelessness and housing.

In more housing news: The office of state Sen. Scott Wiener announced Monday night that more unions that are part of the powerful State Building Trades and Construction Council have dropped their opposition to a key bill.

The measure, Senate Bill 423, would make permanent a 2017 law that is set to sunset in 2025 and that the San Francisco Democrat authored to streamline construction of affordable housing. SB 423 was passed by the Senate on a 29-5 vote on May 31, and is before the Assembly housing committee. The bill would add some pro-labor provisions; unions said they are neutral after amendments in the Senate and clean-up labor language in the Assembly.

  • Wiener, in a statement: “I’m proud of the massive coalition we’ve assembled behind SB 423, including major labor unions, business associations, environmental organizations, and housing advocates.” 

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: What do Gavin Newsom, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have in common? They’re all political blowhards.

Bonus Walters: Workplace and wage issues dominate the eight surviving bills on the Chamber of Commerce “job killer” list.

To prevent homelessness, California needs to protect renters, writes Ginger Hitzke, president of Hitzke Development Corp. in San Diego.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

Who’s behind ‘phony’ groups fighting Newsom’s oil regulations? // San Francisco Chronicle

Migrants expect to stay in Sacramento, feel deceived // The Sacramento Bee

Former Google exec and investor eyes California US Senate race // Politico

Gov. Newsom spars with Sean Hannity in round two of Fox interview // The Sacramento Bee

Opioid settlement payouts to local governments made public // KFF Health News

California releases first data from new anti-hate hotline // San Francisco Chronicle

Railroad industry sues to block new CA locomotive pollution rules // AP News

As workplaces become more violent, CA calls for stricter protections // Capital & Main

California’s plan to change literacy instruction advances // EdSource

What can California’s 150,000 ‘Dreamers’ do next? // The San Francisco Standard

US labor board rules that ride-share drivers, others can unionize // San Francisco Chronicle

LA County and ACLU reach agreement to address jail conditions // Los Angeles Times

Newsom touts CHP fentanyl seizures in San Francisco since May // The Mercury News

Is SF a ‘drug tourism’ destination? SFPD arrest stats stir debate // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow


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