Oregon Gov. Kate Brown today announced her intention to introduce a bill before the Legislature in 2021 that would make Juneteenth an annual state holiday.
That designation would presumably make commemoration of June 19—the day in 1865 when Black Americans in Texas learned of the end of slavery—a paid holiday for all state workers. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for county workers last week, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler followed suit for city employees.
Brown also proclaimed this June 19—tomorrow—a state holiday.
"It's important to me that Oregon is a place that everyone can call home, and thrive," Gov. Brown wrote. "That's always been my focus and I remain committed to that."
Brown's announcement falls amid a nationwide uprising against police violence against Black people, and a national reckoning with racism. In Oregon, that moment has led to the reduction of Portland's police budget and the voluntary departures of Portland Police Chief Jami Resch, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, and Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis.
Brown said reforms would extend statewide, with the creation of a task force to reexamine rules and training for police officers.
She said the task force will be chaired by the governor's public safety policy adviser, Constantin Severe. (Severe, who is Black, is a former director of Portland's Independent Police Review.) They plan to announce members soon, but their primary focus includes finding ways to incorporate equity training in law enforcement and teach deescalation tactics.
Brown previously called a special session of the Legislature for June 24, and police reforms are expected to be among the bills lawmakers consider.